With the new university light-rail station coming in 2016, the U-District will experience a few major changes in the coming years, and more than 40,000 students have a stake in what those changes will be.
Thursday evening, the U-District Livability Partnership opened discussion to the public in a forum sponsored and organized by the UW at Hotel Deca. It was the first of three community conversations that will run through January 2013 about how to approach the changes that the light rail will bring. A group of UW students was present to contribute to the discussion.
The Livability Partnership is a collaborative effort between the UW, the City of Seattle, and the Greater University Chamber of Commerce. It includes three components in addition to the community conversations: a commercial revitalization plan, urban-design framework, and long-term leadership. The partnership, which began most of its work in the last year, is a four-year project.
The featured speaker at the event was David Dixon, an urban planner who has helped other neighborhoods develop a shared community agenda. Other speakers discussed quality of life around transit stations, transit communities, housing diversity, and the future of the community in the U-District.
Dixon provided examples of the communities he had helped and emphasized the need for transit-oriented development.
“There will be more housing, there will be more restaurants, and there will be parks,” Dixon said. “As you create a neighborhood, and come together, and have a terrific agenda as a community, it’s going to give way to a delightful, walkable place.”
Susan McLain, a senior urban planner with the City of Seattle, said the goal of the partnership is to encourage investment in a vibrant, walkable transit-oriented community.
Kyle Rowe, a senior majoring in Community, Environment and Planning, became deeply involved with the partnership as a member of the working group. Currently, students represent less than 5 percent of the attendants at these events.
“Students don’t understand the connection they have with the community and their ability to impact the community,” Rowe said. “The way I see it, change is going to happen to this neighborhood with the light-rail station coming in, whether we like it or not.”
He said even if students are only here for four years, there will be more students coming after them. Rowe said students shouldn’t merely let the changes happen, they should help shape the future of the U-District.
Kateri Schlessman, who works in the Office of Planning and Budgeting at the UW, is the project manager for the community engagement portion of the partnership. Schlessman organizes the community conversations and works to better align the UW’s future planning with some of the interests the community has expressed.
“This is a partnership,” Schlessman said. “As a partner, [the UW has] a stake with other residents and business owners in what happens with the commercial revitalization plan and the future planning around the revitalization.”
The next community conversation will focus on economic and ecological sustainability and will take place Thursday, Dec. 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Neptune Theatre.
Reach contributing writer Amy Busch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AmyBusch2
Please read our Comment policy.