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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?

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. To learn more about the EIS, visit our Project Documents page.

We released a draft Green Street Concept Plan that includes recommendations for sidewalks, street trees, bike lanes, and landscaping on three important streets in the U District: Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St., and NE 42nd St. It’s based on a year of community input through the U District Partnership and broader public meetings. The final green street plan will be completed in Spring 2015.

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 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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