Great cities have active pedestrian-oriented retail areas, and Seattle has many. Could we use more? I think so, and Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) does, too. DPD is evaluating a major expansion of the city’s Pedestrian Retail Area zones, the biggest such expansion in the city’s history.
The Pedestrian Retail Area designation is an overlay on top of an area with Neighborhood Commercial (NC) zoning. The designation doesn’t increase development capacity. Instead, it requires pedestrian-oriented businesses on the ground floor, restricts driveway placement and parking, and waives parking requirements for certain uses. The rules are designed to foster a variety of uses and make these areas more walkable and safer for pedestrians. DPD is considering a set of new rules to strengthen Pedestrian Retail Areas by requiring that developments provide wider sidewalks and overhead weather protection, setting minimum floor area ratios (in Urban Centers, Urban Villages, and Link Light Rail station districts), and limiting lanes for businesses.
DPD has identified 62 study areas for the project, including some new areas and expansions of exiting ones. For each study area, DPD has prepared an informational overview to analyse study area conditions, potential regulatory change impacts, and the study area candidate rating.
One of my favorite proposals for a new Pedestrian Retail Area is Aurora Ave N between N 72nd St and N 80th St. The area has changed a lot over the past few years:
- Many new businesses have opened and existing property owners have invested in their buildings;
- The RapidRide E Line provides more frequent and reliable transit service;
- Traffic calming has reduced the speed of traffic; and
- Many new mixed-used developments have been proposed, such as the recent project Aurora 77 at the intersection of Aurora Ave N and N 77th St.
If any area of Aurora has a real chance as a pedestrian-oriented street, this is it. Designating this corridor as a Pedestrian Retail Area will build upon the recent success of the area, reconnect both sides of Aurora, and further tame the street.
DPD is seeking input from the public on the study areas. If you’re interested in making Seattle more pedestrian-friendly, please take their online survey. It will only take a few minutes. The survey concludes on March 31, 2014.