With return to campus, a changed U District awaits

Later this month, when the University of Washington community makes its jubilant return to its three campuses for the start of school, it will be with joy, relief and a few butterflies in the stomach. Especially as far as the UW Seattle campus is concerned, because we are returning to a U District that has been forever changed.

After years of planning and construction, Sound Transit light rail is coming to Brooklyn Avenue N.E. and will be connecting people through the neighborhood starting Oct. 2. This promises a better way of life with fewer cars (we hope), more people walking about, less need for parking. And, most importantly, a much easier, less expensive and less stressful access to the U District and all it has to offer. Light rail is expected to bring 12,000 people every day into the U District. Imagine getting to campus, buying goodies at the University District Farmers Market, attending Husky games, chowing down on the great eats up and down the Ave, and, of course, shopping at University Book Store, all without a car. Amazing.

Equally eye-opening is what is happening throughout the U District. Construction cranes are putting up 20 new towers, making room for more than 7,000 new residents, nearly 1 million square feet of office space and a lot of street retail. And that’s not counting the 69-acre west campus expansion that will bring 19 new development sites. Change like this brings new opportunities and excitement that will draw many more people to the area. And that should be great for our rebounding economy.

Things are already off to a good start. The spectacular new Burke Museum, which opened on the northwest corner of campus before the pandemic, is a gorgeous beacon of energy and a harbinger of what’s to come in the neighborhood.

Another change in the works is the main access point to the Seattle campus. This will shift from the vehicle entrance at 17th Avenue N.E. to a pedestrian path along N.E. 43rd Street, from the Ave to the lush lawns adjacent to William H. Gates Hall, home to the UW School of Law.

More changes are coming. The ultimate goal of this ongoing process is to make the relationship between the U District and the UW Seattle campus more seamless, more inviting, more welcoming. Things are well on their way.