Sound Transit’s governing board voted unanimously Thursday to negotiate a development deal at its future U District Station, despite calls to consider building a public square instead.
The underground station, on Brooklyn Avenue Northeast behind the Neptune Theatre, opens in 2021 and could eventually serve up to 12,000 light-rail riders daily. Philip Thiel, a 91-year-old professor emeritus at the University of Washington, has circulated his model of a European-style brick plaza. (Last week’s coverage is here.)
The board voted to hold exclusive talks with the University of Washington, potentially leading to a six- to eight-story building with retail at ground level. A final land deal, including any University of Washington payments to Sound Transit for the airspace, requires a follow-up vote.
Plaza supporters told the board to seize the unique chance to establish open space, as the surrounding neighborhood becomes extremely dense. The area is now zoned for buildings up to 65 feet high. Backers of a mixed-use development said Seattle residents need more housing options next to transit hubs, and that the city would fail to keep addicts and loiterers out of a large square.
Sue Alden, who lives in the 23-story University Plaza condos, suggested another concept — build a taller, leaner housing tower and surround it with greenery.
The board, led Thursday by vice-chair Metropolitan King County Councilwoman Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, listened but didn’t debate those ideas. Thiel suggested officials go visit plazas in Rome, to which Patterson joked, “best public testimony ever.”