Sky-high in Seattle
real estate developer martin selig has built many of the emerald City’s jewels.
It’s Impossible to look at Seattle and not see Martin Selig. His eponymous real estate company has been erecting buildings there for nearly six decades— mostly high-end high-rises. Two of his most impressive projects: the glassy aeries downtown on Fifth Avenue called Fifth & Jackson and Fifth & Yesler. (He also built and owned the 76-foor Columbia Center—the city’s tallest building when completed in 1985—before selling it for $354 million in 1989.)
He still owns all of Martin Selig Real Estate and its 4 million square feet of ofce space (“When I see it, I go after it,” he says). With an Amazon-fueled commercial real estate boomlet, Selig is developing an additional 1.5 million square feet and is now worth an estimated $1.1 billion.
The 78-year-old arrived in the Pacifc Northwest under less than auspicious circumstances. He and his family fed Nazi Germany in 1939 after a late-night warning to get out, traveling east through Poland, Russia, Korea and then steerage to America, getting of—apparently on a whim—in Seattle. Selig worked at his father’s children’s clothing store before putting up his frst shopping center in 1962. Right place, right time: By the 1980s Selig owned as much as a third of all ofce space in Seattle. FORBES estimated his fortune at $210 million in 1987. An avid art collector, Selig is also an artist in his own right (see p. 31): “I paint quite a bit. I don’t have enough walls.”