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City Life at Street Level

Active street life — both day and night — is a defining feature of great cities. In City Life at Street Level, the City of Seattle describes and illustrates successful strategies that architects and designers have used to create sidewalk environments that support vibrant, safe and attractive street life.

As Seattle continues to grow and develop, it’s important to learn from what we have done well, and what we could do better, to create storefronts and pedestrian environments that provide great places to meet, interact, and pause. Successful design at the street level can improve livability, economic vitality, neighborhood character, and public safety.

Think of the last time you walked around Seattle and what made it memorable. Which streets did you choose to walk? What restaurants, shops, or art spaces drew you in from the sidewalk? Where and why did you choose to stop?

This year, urban designers at Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development researched street level frontages in Downtown neighborhoods to better understand which design qualities encourage public interaction and vibrant small businesses. They identified positive streetscape qualities that are universal no matter the scale of the building or storefront use: clear glass, welcoming entrances, canopies, lighting, outdoor seating, and detailing for pedestrian scale. Other qualities are more dependent on the activities inside and how they engage with the sidewalk.

Many people and processes impact good street level design. The City hopes this document will be a resource and guide for everyone—building owners and tenants, architects and designers, general public and agencies— for our collective work in shaping a city we all love.