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The Historic Ave, a landmark designation

Conspicuously missing from Seattle's five designated historic commercial districts of Ballard Avenue, Columbia City, Pioneer Square, the International District, and Pike Place Market, is The Historic Ave in the University District. 

Since the 1980's the city has yet to demonstrate a better way to protect a place's history, culture, and values than to establish a local historic district. It is an entire area of historic structures significant to the city's cultural fabric that are protected by public review and incentives. 

We are now completing our comprehensive survey of historic resources and this project leverages our continuing efforts to Save The Ave and to protect vulnerable small businesses, a majority of which are owned by women and/or the BIPOC community. 

Our desired outcome is a landmark designation of The Ave, the heart of the U District.


Preservation has these benefits:

  • With new high-rise housing adjacent, The Ave becomes a destination
  • Historic neighborhoods provide a mix of housing including affordable.
  • The Ave is already home to numerous legacy small businesses.
  • Historic communities have a human scale and pedestrian focus.
  • Reusing old buildings is good for the environment & our well-being.

Why is this project important?

The University District is undergoing significant changes: the upzone in 2017 to high-rise buildings of up to 33 stories, the opening of light rail in 2021, the recent campus master plan to bring towers to campus, and other planned infrastructure projects. Our community wants to have a say in shaping how our neighborhood will be transformed.

Vital to the maintenance of the U District as a thriving community of neighbors is the preservation of our main shopping street, University Way NE, affectionately known as The Ave

Who is Historic U District?

Historic U District is powered by a committed volunteer group that represents diverse stakeholders in our community, who began the preparation of our application for consideration for the National Register of Historic Places in 2019, organizing our first historic walking tour of The Ave immediately before the pandemic changed all of our plans. We have now resumed the research and preparation of our application for submittal in the next few months.

How was the work funded?

Historic U District originally received $1,500 to power the project from 4Culture, a program funded by the King County lodging tax. You may also donate online. Historic U District is a project of U District Advocates, a 501c3 nonprofit, and donations to the project are tax-deductible.

How to participate and provide feedback?

Subscribe online to receive project updates and an invitation to participate in any community events. Submit comments and questions online to Historic U District, who manages the project.

U District Advocates
The Unity Museum


A special thanks to Michael Houser, the Washington State Architectural Historian, who generously offered his support and exceptional guidance to our research team in the preparation of our application. Without his enthusiastic encouragement to dig deeper into our architectural heritage, we would not have discovered the richness of our common history.

Michael Houser

Washington State Architectural Historian

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