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? 

We are working to update the University District Neighborhood Guidelines to reflect the recommendations in the Urban Design Framework, to respond to new zoning, and to enhance the unique character of the University District through the Design Review Program. The University District Neighborhood Design Guidelines underwent a minor revision in 2013, and this will be the first major update since 2000.

We are partnering with The U District Partnership’s Urban Design Committee to hold a series of design workshops on the University District Neighborhood Design Guidelines update The U District Partnership help coordinate with residents and local businesses, provide input, and review guidelines. Find the meeting dates on our Get Involved page.

Council Adopts U District Rezone
City Council and the Mayor recently approved new zoning for the U District. Finalized in February 2017, the legislation allows greater height and density in the core of the neighborhood, applies development standards to help new buildings fit into the U District neighborhood context, implement new affordable housing and open space requirements, and creates new incentives for childcare, historic preservation, and street improvements.

We have worked with the U District community since 2012 to plan for growth and change in the neighborhood. The U District Urban Design Framework discussed neighborhood concerns and goals in detail, laying out many of the ideas that would be implemented by the subsequent rezone. Zoning is one of several policy changes aimed at shaping new growth in the U District. We also completed streetscape concept plans for Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St, and NE 42nd St. In September 2015, City Council amended the U District goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan.

Watch our "A Shared Vision for the U District" video here.

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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