This summer, we’re improving Ballard Ave NW for people walking and nearby businesses

People walk along Ballard Ave NW at the Ballard Farmer’s Market. Photo: SDOT

We are partnering with Councilmember Dan Strauss, the Ballard Alliance, and local businesses to improve mobility and access for people walking and businesses on Ballard Ave NW between 20th Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW, also known as the Ballard Ave Café Street.

In 2020, we worked with Ballard Ave NW businesses to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic with a new street concept that would give people the space they needed to stay healthy and encourage people to enjoy their neighborhood businesses. For example, restaurants and businesses in the area installed new curbside cafes to support outdoor dining. We also made traffic one-way.

During a design charrette hosted by Councilmember Strauss last year, we met with Ballard community members and businesses to hear their feedback about the changes. They told us the changes improved the experience for customers and visitors, and made business deliveries easier. They also asked us to help improve safety for people walking and to de-clutter signs in the area.

Recommendations from the charrette were split into three segments:

  1. Short-term improvements,
  2. Interim policies and allowances, and
  3. Long-term permanent polices, standards, and designs.

The Ballard Ave NW mobility and access improvements are the implementation of the short-term improvements developed during the design charrette.

Over the last few months, we worked with the community to further refine the short-term street design changes and continue to get feedback about how things were going. We worked with the Ballard Alliance, Ballard Avenue Landmark District, the Ballard Farmers Market, and others.

Map of planned street configuration in project area:

Project area map along Ballard Ave NW, between 20th Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW. Orange lines show parking and loading areas; blue lines show loading only areas; purple lines show street cafe areas.
Project area map along Ballard Ave NW, between 20th Ave NW and 22nd Ave NW that shows locations of parking, loading, curb bulbs and sidewalk cafes. Graphic: SDOT

This summer, we’ll tidy up and clarify the people-oriented changes we launched in 2020 by:

  • Updating the striping on Ballard Ave NW to reflect the existing one-way northbound street. New striping and painted areas on the street will make these changes clear.
  • Adding interim “curb bulbs” with paint, flexible posts, and planters to open up intersections and crosswalks so people walking are more visible to people driving. Plus, we’ve found doing this has an overall traffic calming effect, which lowers the speed of people driving, and thereby helps improve safety. 
  • Converting the intersections on Ballard Ave NW at 22nd Ave NW, NW Vernon Pl, and 20th Ave NW to all-way stops.
  • Improving street tree pits with a firm and level walking surface. We won’t affect planting areas maintained by adjacent businesses.
  • Painting parking areas on Ballard Ave NW between street cafes for easier access.
  • Clarifying curbside loading locations and the times of day for loading based on ongoing conversations with local businesses.
Example of paint and post curb bulbs. White painted lines and small posts mark the boundaries of the curb ramp. A yellow fire hydrant and strip of grass next to the sidewalk are visible on the left side of the photo.
Example of a paint-and-post curb bulb. Proposed curb bulbs on Ballard Ave NW will include similar double white lines to show where the curb bulbs end. Photo: SDOT

We will begin installing these improvements this summer.

After this initial project, Councilmember Strauss will host another design charrette to reflect on what has worked well, what can be improved, and the long-term design.

This project gives us the ability to test ideas, get more feedback, and then create policies for café streets at other locations in the city.

To learn more, please visit our project website or contact us via email at BallardAve@seattle.gov. Thank you for your interest!

Ballard Ave NW in Seattle, with outdoor dining areas and one-way vehicle traffic. Bricks are in the foreground, with bicycle parking to the left, and trees and buildings in the upper right and left sides of the image.
Ballard Ave NW in Seattle, with outdoor dining areas and one-way vehicle traffic. Photo: SDOT

Quotes:

“These improvements provide us a real opportunity to increase vibrancy, give business owners the ability to use their entrepreneurial skills, increase pedestrian safety, improve parking, and allow for the safe movement of cars and trucks. These improvements are a product of the Design Charrette I hosted last year and set us up for the next step which is a Design Charrette focusing on the structural integrity and aesthetic of pergolas and structures. These changes formalize how people and vehicles use the space on Ballard Avenue with the focus on safety – making this street a safer place to shop, dine, drive, park, walk, bike, and deliver the freight we depend on.”

– Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss

The Ballard Ave street improvements are a great example of what’s possible when the City partners with local communities. These changes help make the street experience better for everyone, whether you’re a diner going out for a bite to eat, a neighbor walking or rolling along the sidewalk, a vendor delivering products, or a business providing new options to customers.

– Kristen Simpson, Seattle Department of Transportation Interim Director

The reconfiguration of Ballard Avenue was absolutely critical in allowing our restaurants and boutique shops to survive during the pandemic. As we move toward a post-pandemic environment, this redesign is a perfect opportunity to pilot these interim concepts and create an even more vibrant street that benefits shoppers, diners, business owners and property owners.

–Mike Stewart, Ballard Alliance Executive Director

On behalf of the farmers at the Ballard Farmers Market, we look forward to the proposed changes being made to Ballard Avenue. The new improvements will greatly enhance the safety for our community without having a negative impact on the farmers market on Sundays. We appreciate Councilmember Strauss, the City of Seattle, Ballard Alliance and the businesses on Ballard Avenue for working to make this a win-win for all parties involved.

– Doug Farr, Ballard Farmers Market Executive Director

The continued sharing of ideas for implementation for the outdoor structures has been a great asset to any business in Ballard, which are the main driving forces behind me emailing these building plans to 60+ people across the city after building the first structure outside of the Ballard Cut in November of 2020. The partnerships of SDOT, the farmers market and the Ballard Alliance have helped to make this a reality, and this neighborhood has seen unprecedented prosperity because of this concept. We have come through a significantly difficult time with a better view of togetherness, community, and safety. We are humbled to have been a part of this from the beginning, and now that the conversation has grown, we are very excited to see where all this can go.

– Tommy Patrick, owner of The Cut, Parrish NW, and Bunsoy


Several outdoor dining areas line the street on Ballard Ave NW in the evening. Large trees and buildings are visible in the background, along with parked cars on the right side.
Several outdoor dining areas line the street on Ballard Ave NW in the evening. Photo: SDOT