Food & Drink

Seattle’s Hall of Fame: Urban Spaces, Commercial Development, Outdoors and Environment

By Seattle Magazine Staff October 31, 2016


This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

Above: Photographed on September 8, 2016, in the members-only Columbia Tower Club on the 76th floor of Columbia Center. The building, designed by Chester L. Lindsey Architects and built by Howard S. Wright Construction, opened in 1985 and is Seattle’s tallest skyscraper. The Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor, named one of the top observation decks in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, is open to the public (   

Urban Spaces

Virginia Anderson, director, Seattle Center: Seattle Center’s powerhouse director for almost two decades (1988–2006), Anderson envisioned a public space that welcomed everyone, and she oversaw $700 million in development and renovations, quite literally shaping the 74-acre urban landmark we know today.

Uber Influential

Jeff Bezos. Illustration by Kathryn Rathke

Jeff Bezos, futuristic retailer: Created the game-changing Amazon online retail giant, and in 2014 alone poured about $5 billion into Seattle’s economy. By 2020, Amazon may employ 70,000 Seattleites. He gave big to the University of Washington, Museum of History & Industry and homeless shelters. His latest post-Washington Post conquest: Hollywood, where Amazon Studios earned 2 Golden Globes in 2016 and 16 Emmy noms; the 2016 hit at Sundance and Telluride is his Oscar magnet, Manchester by the Sea.

Commercial Development

Greg Smith, developer: Founder and CEO of 30-year-old, sustainability-minded development firm Urban Visions, this fifth-generation Seattleite has been prolific in his contributions to the city skyline, which include Millennium Tower, 901 Fifth and the Reedo Building. Next on the agenda: a $750 million, 7-acre urban green campus Smith is planning for south of downtown.

Jeff Wright, guy of the Needle: When he was about 4 years old, he crawled to the very edge of the still-unfinished Space Needle and looked down, with his dad, Howard S. Wright (who built it), holding his ankles. As chair of the Needle’s board, Jeff Wright, together with his team, added the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum below the Needle, spiffed up the iconic structure for its 50th anniversary in 2012 and helped get Seattle Opera a gleaming new home. He backs Rainier Scholars, funding education for children of color, and Behind the Badge, which supports families of slain police.

Kemper Freeman Jr., Bellevue developer: The Harley-riding real estate magnate helped Bellevue’s core grow by building the 50-acre Bellevue Collection—including Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square—in its downtown. 

Martin Selig, high-rise developer: Selig, who fled Nazi Germany with his family as a child, built his first Seattle building on the Denny Regrade (now Belltown) in 1963. By the ’80s, he owned a third of the city’s office space; by the ’90s, he had built and sold Columbia Center; and by early 2016, his local skyscraper empire totaled more than 4 million square feet.

Outdoors and Environment

Jim Whittaker, mountaineer: Seattle’s most famous outdoorsman has had a dizzying number of career peaks (pun intended): He was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest, one of REI’s first CEOs, led several high-profile climbing expeditions including the first American ascent of K2 in 1978 and led the Mount Everest International Peace Climb.  

Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior: The lifelong environmentalist and former oil engineer steered REI to profitability in the Internet age as a board member and then as CEO. Tapped by the Obama administration in 2013, she now stewards hundreds of millions of acres of public lands.

William Ruckelshaus, government official: The country’s first and fifth head of the Environmental Protection Agency and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom has also made a difference locally via environmental organizations, such as the Puget Sound Partnership, an agency devoted to cleaning up Puget Sound, and as cochair of the Washington Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. 

KC Golden, policy director, Climate Solutions: A nationally recognized climate strategist who takes the maxim “think globally, act locally” to heart, Golden helped Seattle City Light become the country’s first major carbon-free electric utility, played a pivotal role in former Mayor Greg Nickels’ U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and rallied voters to require state energy companies to clean up their acts with Initiative 937. 

Charles V. “Tom” Gibbs, environmental engineer: During his tenure as head of Seattle Metro in the ’60s and ’70s, Gibbs led the ambitious and successful cleanup of Lake Washington, the Duwamish River and Elliott Bay, as well as the creation of a little thing called Metro Transit. 

Harriet Bullittboard vice chair, Bullitt Foundation: The owner of Leavenworth’s Sleeping Lady Resort—and founder of this magazine’s predecessor, Pacific Search—has given millions to regional environmental causes. Her personal impact, which includes saving Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests and preserving Oregon’s Siskiyou mountain wilderness area, earned Bullitt the Audubon Society’s most prestigious award.

Denis Hayes, president, Bullitt Foundation: Creator of Earth Day and the Carter administration’s solar-energy pioneer, Hayes has been named “hero of the planet” by Time magazine for his tireless efforts to make Seattle a global leader in green building.

Richard Haag, landscape architect: The founder of the University of Washington’s Department of Landscape Architecture and edible plant champion designed many of our area’s most breathtaking public spaces, including Marymoor Park, Bloedel Reserve and Gas Works Park.

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