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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?

The U District is a thriving neighborhood with 14,000 residents, hundreds of independent businesses, and its own unique flavor. It’s also a cultural and economic hub, as home to UW, Seattle’s largest employer, and a magnet for the youth and talent of the Pacific Northwest.

Big changes are underway:

  • Light rail is coming in 2021, with a new station at Brooklyn and NE 43rd St.
  • The business community, neighborhood groups, and non-profits have formed an important new partnership
  • UW is investing in the West Campus area with more than a dozen new developments
  • Private development in the U District is surging, with thousands of residential units in the pipeline and more to follow in the coming decades

We are working with the community to make sure that these changes have a positive impact on the neighborhood, and to protect the features that people value the most. We’ve developed the U District Urban Design Framework, a document that will guide the City’s work on a variety of efforts, including Neighborhood Plan updates, zoning changes, streetscape design work, and design guidelines.

Our current work, an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, looks at potential impacts of zoning changes. Our other work includes designing the U District’s three designated “green streets”: Brooklyn Ave. NE, NE 43rd St., and NE 42nd St.

Project Benefits

  • 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: provide 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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