LEADERS IN VISIONARY SUSTAINABLE URBAN DEVELOPMENT
You've lived in Seattle since 1976. What brought you here?
I came to Seattle for the quality of life. I wanted to live in a place where I could ride my bike to work, where mountains and lakes are right at your front door.
What kept you here?
I did take off to the East Coast to get my MBA at Wharton, and had short stints in LA and San Francisco. But I was drawn back to Seattle. I missed the Northwest and the people. They're smart, socially and environmentally progressive, and they never take a sunny day for granted.
What was your first job in Seattle?
When I came to Seattle in 1976, I worked as an architect in the Denny Regrade area—now Belltown. I was involved in projects in Pike Place Market and around the region, but my favorite project was actually in Portugal. I was fortunate to be part of the team that designed the Lisbon Embassy for Bassetti Architects. My work involved several historic buildings—a chapel, manor house and gardens. I liked the challenge of balancing new and old architecture, working with the historical bones of the site. I believe good design, and good development for that matter, respects the history of a place. By being aware of the stories of the past, we make connections that can give a new structure personality and interest.
Sustainable development. What does this mean to JC Mueller LLC?
Sustainable development is an environmental, economic and social concept. Historically, people perceived that while it may be possible for development to address the social needs of the community, or be successful economically, or reduce negative impacts to the environment, it can't accomplish all three. This is false. With forethought, collaboration and creative thinking, we can find responsible solutions that provide lasting value to investors and the community.
JC Mueller LLC is currently focused on developing Seattle's urban neighborhoods. Why is this important to you?
I am a longtime Seattle resident. I live and work near the properties I pursue. I want to see neighborhoods thrive, socially and economically. I want to see housing scarcity eased, commuting reduced and less damage being done to the environment. I don't want to see the heart of Seattle stop beating because everyone decided it was easier to develop in the suburbs. Improving Seattle's core is important to me.
From 1997 to 2000, you developed large-scale projects in Asia. What did you learn from that experience?
My projects with Koll Development, Asia, were massive. For example, in Kuala Lumpur, we were in charge of a project that spanned 12,000 acres. We were tasked with creating five new towns. It would be like someone coming to you and saying, "Here's all the land from Renton to Everett—figure out what to do with it." It was a big responsibility in a foreign culture. I learned quickly how to bring together a community of stakeholders, partners, investors, planners and designers who could effectively tackle a project of this scale. It was an incredible experience.
And what lessons did you learn as you developed South Lake Union?
My involvement as Senior Director of Development for Paul Allen's South Lake Union project taught me several things. First off, public perception and support are incredibly important. If the majority of residents and business owners aren't behind you, you won't get the momentum you need to push forward. Secondly, in order to devise an urban plan that will have a positive impact on future generations, you need to respect the way a neighborhood currently exists. And finally, I learned that if you do good work profitably, others will follow and more good work will get done.
When you're not working, what are you doing?
Music, photography, travel. I've got plenty of passions/vices. Each of them, in some way, helps brings greater dimension and creativity to my development work. My obsession with music led me to Peter Blecha, a Seattle music historian, who is helping JC Mueller infuse some of Seattle's rich musical heritage into our projects. I also enjoy photography—a passion I inherited from my father. It challenges me to look at the world from different perspectives. And my travels—well, travel opens your mind in so many directions. It's impossible to list all the ways it has influenced my thinking and my work.
"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood."