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?

On September 12, Mayor Murray held an event in the U District to present his priorities and plans for the U District. In his comments, the Mayor addressed zoning changes, affordable housing development, and City investments in infrastructure and community organizations. A summary brochure covers many of the projects and programs that the Mayor highlighted.

OPCD planners recently gave two briefings to Council's Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee:

Council will put U District discussions on hold during the annual budget process. During that time, we will release additional studies, including a Director's Report, a displacement study, and details on the affordable housing requirements. Council plans to hold a public hearing in mid-November.

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. 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. In May 2016, we released a draft zoning proposal for public comment - see "Draft Rezone Proposal" in Project Documents.

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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