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King County owns and operates several facilities in downtown Seattle, most of which are on a civic campus centered on Fourth Avenue between James Street and Yesler Way. These include the King County Courthouse, King County Administration Building, King County Correctional Facility, Chinook Building, and Yesler Building. The county also owns King Street Center, located in Pioneer Square.

Over the decades, King County has made investments in these buildings to keep providing services to residents. However, many of them are underutilized, functionally obsolete, or are facing costly maintenance and repairs that may be financially unsustainable. Not only are some of these buildings at the end of their useful life, the area around the campus is often perceived as being unsafe.

New approaches to delivering health and human services, law enforcement, and criminal justice are also driving change at King County, and the COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments at all levels to rethink how they deliver services to the public.


The King County Council directed a comprehensive assessment of existing building conditions and future space needs for downtown functions through 2025. The Civic Campus Master Plan (CCMP) expands on this effort, looking ahead to 2045 to identify opportunities to deploy county services, leverage the value of county real estate assets, improve personal safety and security, and better engage and complement surrounding neighborhoods.

The current civic campus is spread over eight acres of land. There are eight buildings and ten sites, with a total of 2.3 million square feet of space in buildings. Under current zoning, these properties could allow for a total of 4.3 million square feet of non-residential development capacity. If used for residential purposes, this could allow for more than 2,500 housing units.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and the King County Council retained Northwest Studio, a practice of architects and urban designers based in Seattle, to lead the development of a King County Civic Campus Master Plan. The plan will provide the public and county leaders with viable options for facilities, campus investments, and public space uses over the next 25 years.

In 2017, the Northwest Studio consultant team and the King County Facilities Management Division kicked off a four-phase planning effort:

  • Phase I: Project Understanding/Data Gathering (2018)
  • Phase II: Gap Analysis (2020)
  • Phase III: Planning/Analysis (2019-2020)
  • Phase IV: Master Plan Development and Actions (2020-2021)

The first step was to complete an initial assessment of current and future facility and operational needs and to develop a shared vision and guiding principles that will shape and help evaluate Master Plan strategies. The vision and guiding principles were developed by stakeholders, clients, neighbors, and county officials and embraced by King County.


  • A welcoming, equitable, and enduring place, inspiring civic life, and serving the region

Guiding principles

This Master Plan is designed to help develop a strategic and holistic roadmap for improvements to county facilities, campus investments, and public spaces and civic uses over the next 25 years. Its intention is to help the King County deliver more efficient and reliable customer services, including public health and criminal justice approaches, with improved government spaces and facilities. This planning effort is an opportunity to meet community needs and hopes for civic space by thinking creatively about how and where public services are delivered. Through innovation and collaboration, this project is foundational to revitalizing a key downtown neighborhood and restoring community and civic pride.

What's next

Currently, King County is working with the Northwest Studio team to develop a range of strategic approaches for how to improve county facilities and public spaces, provide connections to nearby neighborhoods, and pay for these needed investments. Executive Constantine expects to present these conceptual ideas to county leaders, employees, and other stakeholders throughout 2021.

Public input is also key to the plan, but the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled the county to explore new ways to gather feedback. Details on those opportunities are still being developed. Experts in real estate, equitable development, and vibrant public spaces will also be engaged to gain their perspectives for further exploration and refinement.

The Civic Campus Master Plan is expected to be presented to the County Council in 2021.

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