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The Nerd That Ate Seattle

Paul Allen was the city’s preeminent philanthropist and real estate developer up until his death earlier this week. His legacy reveals something broader about the twinned nature of Seattle and its native software son.
Paul Allen compares his hand size to that of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at an exhibit celebrating the Allen-owned team at Allen's EMP Museum, October 14, 2014.
Paul Allen compares his hand size to that of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at an exhibit celebrating the Allen-owned team at Allen's EMP Museum, October 14, 2014.Elaine Thompson/AP

A Seattleite in 2018 may wake up in a swanky new urban apartment, board a streetcar, work at a brain research institute, eat lunch in an Amazon office building, check out Captain Kirk’s chair at a pop-culture museum, munch on chocolate popcorn in the restored Cinerama, and catch the Seahawks game all in a day. The common thread of this lifestyle? Paul Allen.

The Microsoft co-founder died on Monday at 65 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a disease he had battled since 1982. More than three decades after he made his fortune with private-school classmate Bill Gates, Allen became his hometown’s biggest philanthropist through charitable investments in arts and science, owner of two professional sports franchises, and the financial backer of a for-profit real estate firm that plays a leading role in Seattle’s staggering growth spurt.