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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?

Following an extensive, four-year public process to discuss the future of the U District, we are moving ahead with several different policy changes. First, we’ve completed streetscape concept plans for Brooklyn Ave NE., NE 43rd St., and NE 42nd St. This summer, we are recommending amendments to the U District goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan. In the fall we will be back out in the community with draft zoning recommendations for further discussion. After a public comment period on the draft zoning, we will send zoning recommendations to Council for consideration in early 2016.

On January 8, 2015, we published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This document completes our study of the impacts of possible zoning changes and Comprehensive Plan amendments. Some neighborhood groups filed an appeal on the adequacy of the EIS , but after a hearing in the spring, the Hearing Examiner upheld the document. To learn more about the EIS, visit our Project Documents page.

We are also working with the community and Seattle Parks on an initiative to plan future park and open space improvements in the neighborhood. After a series of Open Space Forums in the fall of 2014, the project’s steering committee is working to complete a summary report and recommendations. To see presentations and documents from these Open Space Forums, visit our Project Documents page.

Planning for Change

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

Proactive planning can help make sure that these changes have a positive impact on the neighborhood, and help us protect the features that people value the most. Our U District Urban Design Framework is a document that is guiding the City’s work on a variety of efforts, including Neighborhood Plan updates, zoning changes, streetscape design work, and design guidelines.

Project Benefits

Working with the neighborhood, we’ve identified the following guiding principles, which inform all of DPD’s 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: 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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