An amazing thing happens when buses are diverted off of University Way Northeast and the remaining car traffic is reduced to just one lane. The prevalent sounds become conversation, laughter, and music in the newly-discovered quiet of this temporary pedestrian environment.
Welcome to Outdoors on the Ave, a rare experiment in pedestrianizing a key commercial district in one of Seattle's densest neighborhoods for daily walking and rolling activity. With the new U District light rail station about to open, a university serving 40,000 students, and recently up-zoned buildings under construction, the University District is projected to challenge Capitol Hill as Seattle's walking-est neighborhood.
Throughout September, and culminating this weekend, the U District has hosted a Cafe Street on The Ave, with restaurants and community life filling street spaces that are usually clogged with traffic and parked vehicles. Outdoor dining is available at dozens of restaurants and cafés, featuring cuisine from around the world. Thursday nights feature an outdoor, all-ages concert series, free to attend — two more concerts have just been added, so you've got great options for music this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday each, featuring En Canto (Sep 30), The Civilians (Oct 1), and Reposodo (Oct 2). Come early to grab take-out, take a seat at a picnic table, and listen to music together in the open air.
Sept. 28, 2021
Thursday is also Chess Night on The Ave's Cafe Street, hosted by Bulldog News, with a large street chessboard and tables for other matches. Bring your board or borrow one.
Experience Outdoors on the Ave before it's gone.
Sadly, Saturday, October 2nd is the last day to experience this pedestrian street experiment. The 2nd will be a significant day in Seattle, marking the grand opening of three new light stations, including the U District light rail station — a new major connection for this neighborhood to the rest of the city.
The U District station grand opening festival will feature a $3 food walk ($3 menu at over 45 restaurants), an outdoor stage for live music, and a beer garden at Big Time Brewery. Come for the light rail station opening and check out the pedestrian street before it disappears!
How did The Ave's pedestrian street experiment come about?
Just as the severe impacts of the pandemic on our beloved, local small businesses became alarming in May of 2020, a group of U District neighbors and volunteers came together to help with the following priorities:
But the idea of a "people street" on The Ave goes back to the 1970’s with a proposal by Victor Steinbrueck, who helped save Pike Place Market from demolition.
Throughout extensive public engagement workshops and other community-led activities over the years, the U District community stakeholders' (business owners, nonprofit organizations, students, neighbors) priorities have been consistent: pedestrianize our main shopping street and save our unique small businesses.
The Outdoors on the Ave cafe street project addresses both of these concerns and keeps this one commercial street at a human scale, while high-rise buildings begin to go up all around it.
It may be temporary today, but the community, assisted by University Greenways, and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, will keep pushing for a permanent version.
Don’t miss out on the chance to experience the future of The Ave, during this temporary experiment. It all goes away after Saturday. Come visit, dine, shop, and then take our survey.
Outdoors On The Ave
- Help local small businesses recover from the pandemic
- Create space for safe social distancing for pedestrians on The Ave
- Attract customers to the U District to compensate for loss of students during the summer