What's Next In The Development Of Seattle's University District? | KUOW News and Information

What's Next In The Development Of Seattle's University District?

Oct 7, 2014

Dave LeClergue is a Seattle city planner, but he may as well hold the title "citizen wrangler." LeClergue is the man who has the job of shepherding in a new development plan for Seattle's University District.

A new light rail station under construction at the corner of Brooklyn Avenue Northeast and Northeast 45th Street has brought a wave of  interest from commercial developers. To that end, neighborhood leaders and Seattle's Department of Planning and Development have convened a group of stakeholders to talk about everything from new housing initiatives to what new parks and open space should look like.

The Sound Transit station won't open until 2021, but LeClergue and his committee have been hard at work for a couple of years already.

"We already see the beginning of a development boom," LeClergue said. "It's going to pick up and keep happening until after the light rail station opens."

According to LeClergue, once light rail trains are up and running here, it will be a quick six-minute trip from the University District to downtown Seattle. And that will attract new residents to a neighborhood that's dominated by the University of Washington's student population.

Right now, about 14,000 people live in the U District, but LeClergue said city planners expect another 5,000 residents in the next decade.

Seattle officials also would like to see more non-University jobs in the neighborhood. That target is part of the City's Comprehensive Plan -- a strategy to funnel significant growth in both people and employment to five key "urban centers" within the city limits. This area is one of those centers.

Conflicts arise, though, because while the University is the 800 pound neighborhood gorilla, it's not the only player when it comes to planning. Advocates for low income housing, senior services and low density, single-family housing all have seats on the neighborhood planning committee. LeClergue's job is to make sure they are all heard.

On Tuesday, city officials will be at a forum to discuss Open Space plans. The forum will be held at UW's Alder Hall at 7 p.m.

LeClergue anticipates the next big discussion will revolve around building heights. Expect that series of conversations to commence in early 2015.