Most Influential Seattleites of 2017: Ben Franz-Knight

Seattle Magazine presents the Most Influential Seattleites of 2017.
Ben Franz-Knight in the plaza area of the Pike Place MarketFront expansion.

It took more than four decades to achieve, but in late June, an impressive 30,000-square-foot expansion of Pike Place Market opened for business. An expansion had always been part of the successful 1970s-era “Keep the Market” urban renewal plan, but numerous obstacles (funding, the BNSF railroad tunnel that runs underneath the site, development constraints) kept it from gaining traction, despite eight feasibility studies. But the upcoming demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct provided impetus for the city to redevelop the waterfront—and connect it to the Market, which led to state and city funding for the expansion. 

That’s where Ben Franz-Knight came in. The Pullman native, and until recently, the executive director of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA), spent the past six years taking the build-out from concept to reality, a process that required patience, political savvy and keen problem-solving skills, along with consolidating input from more than 200 public meetings and working with 90 project partners, including the Market community and government agencies.

Building the extension as trains continued to run underneath it was the biggest nail-biting challenge, Franz-Knight says, since any interruption of train service could have stopped the project cold. Another challenge? “Managing the project in a fishbowl, and keeping it moving” he says. With the project finished, Franz-Knight announced last July that he was leaving for a new position, but the Market has left its mark on him. “I will carry forward the fundamental democracy of this place to all of my future work,” he says.

Read about the rest of 2017's Most Influential Seattleites here.

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