Leslie Smith and Don Blakeney have been partners in transforming two of the city’s most history-rich neighborhoods for quite some time. Before they became leaders of Pioneer Square and the Chinatown–International District in 2010, respectively, the two worked together with the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs and Shunpike, an arts collective, to launch Storefronts Seattle, a program that brings artists into empty storefronts. Since then, they’ve been strengthening the identities of these adjacent communities. Pioneer Square has blossomed into a magnet for unique retailers and hip restaurants, and the Chinatown–International District is reclaiming its historic heritage; and Smith and Blakeney have been making alleys pedestrian assets rather than eyesores. In July, Blakeney unveiled Seattle’s first translated street sign program for historic Chinatown and Japantown, intended to bolster community identities and reinforce their unique visual character, Blakeney says. “If you walk up King Street today, you can see Chinese tourists and families photographing themselves in front of these new signs.” But wait, there’s more: The two are slowly taking their influence north, to neighboring downtown, working with a team that includes law enforcement, politicians, social service providers and business owners to brainstorm solutions that combat criminal activity and homelessness.
The Full List: Most Influential People of 2013
Their finger prints are all over Seattle. From protecting honeybees to regulating marijuana to popping and locking, these 54 men and women (and in one case, a machine) are shaping our neighborhoods, economy, attitudes and future. In the case of our person of the year—for the first time in our nine years of compiling this list, it’s a tie!—the impact is on a global scale. We may not always like the direction they are taking us in but it’s hard to deny: these folks are taking us somewhere.