In recent years, Seattle’s average population growth has been about 17,750 people. And who could blame them? Seattle is a great city. It has natural beauty and is home to many of the world’s leading businesses.
As we grow and share this city, the need for more housing is clear. With the City Council’s vote to pass Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), which includes the upzone of 27 neighborhoods, more people will be able to enjoy it.
The upzone has opened the door to more than 8,000 new housing units atop hundreds of small neighborhood businesses on Aurora Avenue North alone, a stretch of state highway historically known for its design to accommodate the car.
Aurora Avenue North actually existed before cars. In fact, the identity of the auto-oriented stretch is a relatively new one. The 1950s rise of the middle class offered families opportunity to own a vehicle. Aurora’s identity changed overnight. Places to repair your car, spend the night on your road trip, or drop off junk replaced movie theaters, grocery stores, and other walkable neighborhood businesses.
With Seattle becoming more focused on climate change, it’s time to change this auto-centric image. Seattle’s MHA plan has rezoned a one mile, 50-acre stretch from North 84th Street to North 110th Street to be less about the car and more about you, the person living, shopping and working here.
Rather than employ a handful of people on two acres, dozens will be employed in multiple storefronts that will draw more people and neighborhood businesses. Buildings will reach the street edge, uses will be vibrant all hours, and public safety will increase. The vibrancy of a neighborhood with a mixture of primary uses will fill Aurora with pedestrian activity throughout the day.
Seattle’s Department of Transportation has not ranked North Aurora in its Top 10 most trafficked streets in years. That’s because Aurora is already changing. Aurora ranks No. 1 in bus ridership. The 18,000 daily passengers on the Rapid Ride E Line make it Seattle’s most-used bus line. With virtually no housing to displace, and many sites left vacant or underutilized waiting to sell, this transit-oriented development opportunity will be beneficial to the city and the neighborhood.
The idea of up to 8,000 housing units on 50 acres, with ground level commercial, brings a mix of uses and density city planners dream of — enough active use to maintain lively businesses and public safety. The more eyes on the street, the better.
Who wouldn’t want to open a coffee shop or bakery in a building with hundreds of people living under the same roof? The local restaurants and brew pubs are already packed during peak hours, so let’s make room for more success. These projects can sprinkle in with the existing businesses along Aurora and provide a shared opportunity for everyone in the neighborhood.
Seattleites will love a long-overdue makeover of Aurora. There’s an artistic edge here. The pedestrian bridge on 102nd has been decorated with colorful fins representing a “new dawn” for Aurora. There are funky murals on older buildings, lively breweries, and plenty of residents to support business. We have a sense of pride in this neighborhood and are willing to share it with our new neighbors.
The opportunity of Aurora Avenue North is real. With improvements to the sidewalks, planting the street edge, lining the medians with trees, and with thousands of new housing units, this area will transform overnight. Seattle needs more land to house the 120,000 new people who have moved in to share this great city, and Aurora is ready to supply it.
Aurora Avenue North is ripe for change, and with it brings a new dawn of opportunity.