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UDP Leads Community Vision Workshop for Potential Highway Lid In U District and Wallingford

December 1, 2023

On Thursday, November 9th, The U District Partnership and Lid I-5 North Steering Committee led a community vision workshop to gather initial community input about  a potential highway lid over Interstate 5 and nestled between the Wallingford and U District neighborhoods around NE 45th and 50th Streets. The workshop was designed and led in collaboration with the Scan Design Interdisciplinary Studio in the Landscape Architecture department at UW. Over 170 community members registered for the event, and the enthusiasm and engagement underscored the collective desire to shape the future of this urban space. The event included informative presentations, interactive activities, and a collaborative design session.

What’s a highway lid? According to the Lid I-5 organization, “A lid is a bridge-type structure that spans over the gap of a sunken freeway or other transportation corridor. They are structurally similar to overpasses and are built with concrete or steel. They can be designed to support soil, trees, people, vehicles, and buildings.” The Lid I-5 organization is leading the effort to build more highway lids in Seattle, and has gathered resources and information for anyone interested in learning more. In North Seattle, a highway lid over I-5 around NE 45th St and NE 50th St could create up to 14 acres of land for housing, open space, pollution mitigation, and safer bicycle and pedestrian connections. The Urbanist recently covered more the need for a highway lid in the U District.  

The North Seattle workshop commenced with insightful presentations that delved into the what, why and how of highway lids, drawing inspiration from other projects and shedding light on the transformative environmental and social potentials of highway lids within and beyond the PNW region. These presentations set the stage for participants to conceptualize their visions for the proposed lid through interactive activities. These activities included sticker dot exercises designed to gauge community values, preferences, and dislikes as well as provide opportunities for new ideas. Participants were able to identify things like what kind of open and green space, recreation, transportation, and buildings they would want to see on a lid. They shared ideas about bicycle and pedestrian connections through a lid. They wrote postcards to their future selves, and even used AI to generate images of a lid they would want to see.  

The heart of the workshop was the student-led design stations, where student groups organized by development intensity facilitated meaningful discussion and visioning of the  new space provided by a highway lid. This collaborative exchange of ideas provided a platform for residents to actively contribute to the envisioning process. The workshop ended with a report-out session, where participants synthesized the findings and major takeaways of the workshop. Much of the night’s ideas focused on a need for more dense housing and green, open space in Wallingford and the U District, as well as safer connections for pedestrians and cyclists across I-5. 

This invaluable feedback will serve as a compass for further iterations, grounding the designs in the tangible realities of what the residents desire. The success of this event lies not just in its attendance numbers but in the depth of engagement, fostering a genuine sense of community involvement in the evolution of this dynamic and exciting project. The Lid I-5 North group plans to continue engaging with community members into 2024, as well as build support with public agencies and officials in order to secure funding for a feasibility study.

Learn more about Lid I-5 North and join our mailing list here. Interested in getting involved? Contact Katy Ricchiuto, program manager, at katy@udistrictpartnership.org

Blog written by Katy Ricchiuto, UDP and Katrina Golladay, Scan Design Interdisciplinary Studio, UW