Envisioning the International District

Link Light Rail in Seattle’s neighborhoods

The Chinatown/International District Neighborhood Plan has several objectives: "cultural and economic vitality, housing that is affordable and diverse, public spaces that are safe, dynamic, and pedestrian friendly, and better accessibility to the neighborhood while encouraging less dependency on automobiles." Fast and reliable light rail service will strengthen the District’s role as a social gathering place and cultural and shopping center for many people who live in other neighborhoods yet think of the District as an extension of their community.

The light rail station will be located at the existing International District bus tunnel station. Light rail station passengers will exit onto the plaza between Union Station and 5th Ave. S., which connects the station to the heart of the shopping area east of 5th Ave. S. The District’s retail center will be a lively, welcoming, and safe urban open space. Kiosks, public art, and signs will let visitors know it is only a short walk to museums, shopping, restaurants, the new branch library and community center, and the baseball and football stadiums.

Strong pedestrian, bicycle, and bus connections are central to the success of the community’s vision. Increased bus traffic along 5th Ave. S. will make it more difficult for pedestrians to cross from the plaza to destinations east of 5th Ave. S. However, a new bus stop and traffic signal at 5th Ave. S. and Weller St. will improve the crossing and provide more access to bus service. Lane Street will be a direct link to the new Uwajimaya Village shopping center and apartments, and connect the station to the new branch library and community center at ID Village Square.

Human services, including childcare, benefit greatly from being located near light rail stations. Existing childcare centers, other human service providers, and locally-owned businesses need support to adjust to light rail construction. After the station is complete, childcare near the station will benefit families with working parents, create a new market for childcare providers, and provide jobs for local residents.

Amix of housing, retail, and office development is currently under construction or expected in the near future, adding more people to the neighborhood. Office workers, residents, and visitors to the District will bring increased activity on the streets and more vitality to existing parks and plazas. In order to sustain the District as a residential neighborhood, the community envisions a range of housing types: new rental and ownership units for a variety of incomes, and preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing in older buildings. New development will follow the guidelines established through the International Special Review District to reinforce historic building forms and help retain the character of the neighborhood.

The Chinatown/International District light rail station is at the edge of the neighborhood’s shopping and residential center. Marketing opportunities at the station, such as kiosks with maps, signs, and displays, are important to encourage commuters, tourists, and office workers to explore the cultural attractions, restaurants, and shops of the District.

We can achieve our vision for the International District with these tools.

A number of different tools and actions can be used to achieve the vision for the station area. Many of these tools will be used in the majority of station areas. Only the tools and the actions specific to this station area are listed below.

Parking Strategies

Objective: Implement station area parking strategies to promote light rail and bus ridership, enable development that will benefit from and support transit, and protect neighborhood parking.

Action: Implement the recommendations of the Chinatown/International District Parking Study. Consider parking requirements appropriate to the neighborhood that promote light rail and bus use. Manage on and off street parking supplies. Establish policies that prioritize parking for residents and retail, discourage commuter parking, allow shared parking among developments, separate parking costs from building rent costs, and implement transportation demand management.

Design Guidance

Objective: Ensure that the station, surrounding development, and associated street and sidewalk improvements reinforce the architectural, social, and visual character of the neighborhood and support the community's vision and goals. Incorporate public art, gateways, and other design elements that communicate a clear sense of neighborhood identity. Include an easy to understand system of maps, markers, and signs to help visitors and residents find their way around the station area and to key attractions and bus stops.

Action: Mark entries to the District at 5th Ave S. and S. Jackson St., along S. Jackson St., and along Dearborn St. Design signs, maps, and kiosks to reflect neighborhood history and incorporate public art. Prepare a "wayfinding plan" to provide well-marked routes between the King Street Intermodal Station, the new library and community center at ID Village Square, the Wing Luke Asian Art Museum, and the stadiums. Coordinate International Special Review District requirements with other City permitting processes and guidelines for light rail.

Public Facilities

Objective: Promote a vibrant, active community with a number of recreational and community gathering places. Design public buildings to reinforce neighborhood character and support local efforts to promote economic opportunity. Design community gathering spaces, plazas, bus stops, and the light rail station to inspire positive social interactions between neighbors and celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood.

Action: Site new branch library and community center at ID Village Square. Work with the community to improve open spaces for gathering and recreation, integrate public art into the station, and provide public restrooms in the vicinity of the International District station, either as a public amenity or through arrangements with private businesses.

Street Reconfiguration/ Operational Changes

Objective: Improve access to the light rail station for pedestrians, bikes, buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders. Ensure good circulation and traffic flow throughout the station area.

Action: Improve downtown streets, sidewalks, and bus facilities as part of the Downtown Surface Streets Improvement project. Create more walkable routes from the light rail station to the heart of the District, the stadium area, and residential neighborhood north of Jackson St.

Sidewalk and Crossing Improvements

Objective: Improve access to the light rail station for pedestrians. Make walking within 1/4 mile of the station a safe and enjoyable experience for all people.

Action: Bring curb ramps up to the standard set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Repair heaved sidewalks between major destinations and station entrances where necessary. Increase sidewalk width within 300’ of station entrances or make other improvements to pedestrian environment if sidewalk widening is not possible due to right of way constraints. Add decorative lighting that illuminates the sidewalk. Make crossing improvements where necessary. Design and construct a pedestrian signal or full traffic signal on 5th Ave S in the vicinity of Weller St.

Bicycle Facilities and Access

Objective: Provide bicycle facilities at the station and improve bicycle access throughout the station area to increase bus and light rail ridership and reduce auto dependency.

Action: Supply bike parking at station entrances to accommodate passenger demand and increase bus and light rail ridership. Establish standards for additional bike parking in new station area developments. Sign and/or stripe bike routes as appropriate to increase access to the station. Design and construct a bicycle boulevard (curb-separated bicycle and walking trail system) on Dearborn St.

Car Sharing

Objective: Provide a viable alternative to car ownership and encourage people who live near a light rail station not to own a car, or in the case of a family to own one car.

Action: Identify parking spaces in the station area for the car sharing program’s use, particularly near the station.

Bus Service Changes

Objective: Work with KC/Metro to increase access to the light rail system for buses and shuttle vans for disabled riders.

Action: Provide frequent bus service to the light rail station. Make transfers between bus and light rail convenient to encourage transit ridership. Add a new bus stop at 5th Ave S. and S. Weller St. as part of the Downtown Surface Streets Improvement project

Housing Actions

Objective: Increase opportunities for new housing and home ownership in the station area that take advantage of access to the regional light rail system, maintain the diversity and character of the neighborhood, and generate activity around the station so that people are encouraged to walk, gather, and shop.

Action: Develop housing for homebuyers as well as renters. Develop housing programs and financing mechanisms that enable affordable housing to be included in new housing developments. This may include use of the City’s downtown development bonus programs that encourage affordable housing, human services, and open space in exchange for increased building heights. Redevelop public and privately owned sites in the station area. Promote greater use of Property Tax Exemption and Location Efficient Mortgage programs where they support City housing goals. Note that all new development proposals must be approved by the International District Special Review Board.

Human Services

Objective: Support human services in the station area that can benefit from easy access to buses and light rail, and will serve International District residents and nearby employees.

Action: Retain existing childcare centers and explore options for new childcare facilities as part of station area developments, such as ID Village Square.

Economic Development

Objective: Support existing community businesses during bus operation changes leading to the opening of light rail in 2006. Encourage new local businesses that benefit from and support the light rail system. Discourage chain stores from locating in the District.

Action: Work with the community to develop and implement a plan that directs impacted businesses to appropriate resources, tools, and assistance during construction and helps ensure their successful relocation, operation during construction, and long-term viability. Encourage new businesses that support transit and create jobs. Coordinate with the Chinatown/International District Business Improvement Association, Sound Transit, KC/Metro, and other interested community organizations.

Public Safety

Objective: Create a safe, lively environment throughout the station area through the use of good design, creation of economic opportunities, and development of recreational opportunities for youth and adults.

Action: Provide good lighting and clear lines of sight in public spaces and new developments. Encourage development with retail shops at street level and housing above that will promote "eyes on the street." Coordinate with the Chinatown/International District Business Improvement Association security patrols, Seattle Police officers, the business community and other interested community organizations to develop and implement a public safety strategy that promotes and enhances public safety around the station.

Plan Coordination

Objective: Ensure that all Chinatown/International District planning activities are consistent and that station area planning implements the community vision.

Action: Coordinate the Downtown Urban Design Plan, the Downtown Surface Street Improvements project, the South Downtown Foundation Investment Strategy, and other private entities.