U District Urban Design

People dance in the street at the University District street fair.
A four-year strategic partnership between the community, city, and the University of Washington to plan for a vibrant transit-oriented University District neighborhood.

What's Happening Now?

Following an extensive four-year public process in the U District, we have released draft recommendations to address neighborhood priorities.

The proposal would allow greater height and density in the blocks surrounding light rail at NE 43rd St. and Brooklyn Ave NE. It would apply design standards to help new buildings fit into the U District neighborhood context. The proposal would also implement new affordable housing and open space requirements, as well as incentives for childcare, historic preservation, and street improvements.

The proposal includes:

  • Director’s Report - This document gives background on the planning process and explains the draft proposal in detail.
  • Draft rezone map - This map shows where zoning would change under this proposal.
  • Draft ordinance - Proposed code language contains the technical details about development standards, affordable housing requirements, historic preservation incentives, and other policy issues.
  • Rezone analysis (Appendix C to the Director’s Report) - This provides a detailed, area-by-area discussion of how the rezone fits the City’s rezone criteria.
  • Environmental Impact Study (EIS) Addendum: Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) - This document updates the U District EIS to include consideration of MHA requirements.

We held an open house meeting in May (download the open house presentation) and held "office hours" to get feedback on the proposal. The comment period for the rezone proposal closed on July 15, and the comment period for the EIS Addendum closed on June 30. We are reviewing comments now and will revise the proposal and send it to City Council for consideration later in 2016.

Zoning is one of several policy changes aimed at shaping new growth in the U District. We completed streetscape concept plans for Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St, and NE 42nd St in the spring of 2015. In September 2015 City Council approved our recommended amendments to the U District goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan. For background, the U District Urban Design Framework discusses neighborhood concerns and goals in detail and lays out many of the ideas that would be implemented by the proposed rezone.

Project Benefits

Working with the neighborhood, we’ve identified the following guiding principles to inform all of our projects in the U District:

  • Recognize light rail as a catalyst for change
  • Balance the regional influences with the eclectic local character
  • Provide a network of great streets and public spaces
  • Grow and diversify jobs
  • Welcome a diversity of residents
  • Improve public safety
  • Encourage quality and variety in the built environment
  • Build an environmentally sustainable neighborhood
  • Improve integration between UW and the U District
  • Support walking, biking, and transit

The End Result

  • The U District Strategic Plan: short- and long-term actions to promote a unique and vital commercial district
  • The U District Urban Design Framework: a clear, cohesive vision to guide development and public investments to create a lively, safe, and walkable neighborhood
  • New working relationships between community stakeholders: between public / private partners in order to plan for change now and to work together for a better U District in the future
  • Policy changes: including Comprehensive Plan updates, zoning changes, new design concepts for several key streets, and updated design guidelines

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