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City issues preliminary proposal to guide growth in Uptown Urban Center

After more than three years of engaging community members in envisioning a vibrant future for the Uptown neighborhood, the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) today issued a preliminary rezone recommendation. The proposal will result in an estimated 600 new affordable homes, neighborhood design standards that respond to community priorities, incentives for new arts and cultural spaces, improved connections to Seattle Center, and enhanced walkability in the Uptown Urban Center.

“Seattle continues to grow as our strong economy attracts new workers from across the country and around the world,” said OPCD Director Sam Assefa. “While we have done a great job of guiding that growth to our urban centers like Uptown, we have failed to grow affordably. We are implementing Mandatory Housing Affordability in Uptown, so that new development contributes to affordable housing options for low-income families.”

Over 20 years, the upzone will result in an estimated 600 new income-restricted and rent-restricted homes for low-income residents through the City’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program. Under MHA, Uptown development will be required to include between 7 percent and 10 percent affordable homes in each building, or contribute between $8.00 and $29.75 per square foot to the Seattle Office of Housing to support affordable housing, depending on the specific location in the neighborhood.

“Compass Housing Alliance commends the City of Seattle for prioritizing housing affordability in our changing urban landscape,” said Janet Pope, executive director of the non-profit housing organization. “We support Mandatory Housing Affordability and the effort to help residents of all income levels to be able to live and thrive in our city.”

The proposal allows new building heights for many areas of the neighborhood already zoned for multi-family residential and mixed-use commercial buildings, providing much-needed capacity for market-rate and income-restricted housing within walking distance of South Lake Union, Belltown and Downtown. No zoning changes are proposed outside of the Uptown Urban Center or in single-family zones nearby. The iconic public views of the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline as seen from Kerry Park and other key view corridors are protected under the proposal. New development standards will support Green Streets with better connections to Seattle Center for a more walkable neighborhood.

Key rezone recommendations of the OPCD Director’s Report include a moderate increase in building height along the Mercer Street Corridor, from the current 40 feet to 85 feet, the same height limit as on the Seattle Center campus. The triangle bounded by Broad, Aurora and Denny could feature taller, thinner, well-spaced, 16-story residential towers. Other areas of the Uptown Urban Center currently zoned for multi-family residential or mixed-use would receive one or two stories of additional height.

“As a community, we have been actively engaged in conversation about how we support Uptown as a thriving residential neighborhood and unique cultural destination,” said Debi Frausto of the Uptown Alliance. “We look forward to working with the City to create more housing options and walkable streetscapes, while preserving the vibrant energy and cultural opportunities that we love about Uptown.”

In the new Uptown Urban Design Framework, the Uptown community has prioritized walking connections to Seattle Center amenities, a lively streetscape with active retail businesses, diverse housing types and more affordable housing, and jobs in both large and small businesses. The rezone will create incentives for new arts and cultural spaces, giving smaller organizations a chance to operate in or near Seattle Center, which attracts visitors from around the world. The rezone will also help preserve historic buildings by allowing them to sell unused development rights.

In the last two years, 20 Metro bus lines that serve the neighborhood have expanded service as a result of voter-approved Prop 1, improving transit speed and reliability. This year, the Seattle Department of Transportation will update signal controls on Mercer, Roy, and Valley streets to be more sensitive to real-time traffic conditions. Similar signal upgrades are planned for Denny Way.

The City of Seattle will host an open house at Seattle Center Pavilion, adjacent to the Seattle Center Skatepark, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 29. The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the proposal and speak to City staff about housing, transportation, support for the arts, and other neighborhood priorities.

The OPCD Director’s Report accompanies the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that evaluated three options for the neighborhood. Written public comment on the preliminary rezone recommendation can be submitted by writing to

After the public comment period ends on April 22, OPCD will make a recommendation to the Mayor and Council about how to proceed to implement the community’s vision for the future of Uptown.