A new mixed-use project in the Northgate area may include a new “woonerf” as part of the site design. The imagery from the design documents evokes something approximating European- and Asian-style shopping arcades. Those kinds of spaces are premier pedestrian experiences that this region has been missing for quite some time.

The developers are referring to the north-to-south access alley option as a woonerf, but on closer examination it’s more of a brick, paved pedestrian shortcut attached to a courtyard. The space functionally allows cars to turn around when entering and exiting the underground garage. Though perhaps not exactly a woonerf, this new kind of dual-use development makes room for new public space by breaking up superblocks for pedestrians. One of the most challenging things to being a pedestrian in Northgate is the total lack of accessible routes across the neighborhood’s many superblock-style developments.

Detailed site plan

The developers here have zeroed in on a good urban design approach for Northgate. Should this style of development continue, it could begin to heal the broken pedestrian system that currently exists in North Seattle.

Throughout the design review process, you can express your opinions on this project by submitting them to the DPD. 

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  1. I live pretty close to that lot, so I’m familiar with the area. I agree with what you said. It is a stretch to call it a woonerf (every parking lot in the city would qualify under that definition) but it doesn’t matter. This looks like a very nice design, with easy pedestrian walkways in an area that lacks them (as you mentioned). It probably doesn’t matter much with this building (since you can skirt the lot to the east) but as other buildings are added, it could make a big difference. Kudos for the developer for a solid design.

    It is a shame that other areas (like the mall to the east) don’t have more pedestrian passageways. These passageways make a big difference — they are often the difference between a pleasant walk and an unpleasant one (which often just leads to someone driving).

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