Mayor Harrell to Appoint Experienced Civic Leader Marshall Foster to be Next Director of the Seattle Center
Following a national search informed by the Seattle Center community and staff, waterfront leader Marshall Foster will serve as the next Director, bringing deep experience in place-making and civic partnerships.
SEATTLE (June 22, 2023) – Today, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced that he has selected Marshall Foster to serve as the next permanent director of the Seattle Center. Having served as the City’s long-standing Director of the City’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects, Foster brings decades of experience in leading complex civic partnerships and bringing large-scale urban projects to life in Seattle.
“Seattle Center is the cultural heart of our city and the region, bringing together an incredible collection of organizations, artists, and community partners to create memorable events and experiences that deliver vitality, culture, and a sense of belonging to our city,” said Mayor Harrell. “As the next permanent director of the Seattle Center, Marshall Foster shares our One Seattle vision and values and has the hands-on leadership experience to help the Center grow into the future. Working with Marshall we will expand the Center’s role as host to communities from every walk of life, create new opportunities to support our youth and emerging artists, and continue to build strong civic partnerships so that the Center remains a welcoming, vibrant place for everyone in our city.”
Foster has been serving as the Interim Director of Seattle Center since January, overseeing operations and management of the 74-acre Seattle Center campus, including a $58M annual budget. In the last six months, Foster has led efforts to help bring back summer programming and events on campus and has prepared the Seattle Center for its new role managing Waterfront Park. He has also worked with City leadership to advance a partnership with Seattle Public Schools to redevelop Memorial Stadium with a new multi-use sports stadium to serve students and the larger community.
Prior to this year, Foster helped create the City’s Waterfront Seattle Program, serving as Director of the City’s Office of the Waterfront and Civic Projects (OWCP) since 2014. OWCP is now building 20 acres of new parks and public spaces to serve Seattle and the region as part of an innovative civic partnership with $781M in funding from the City and State, Downtown property owners, and major philanthropic partners. Foster has also served as the City’s Designated Representative to Sound Transit 3.
Prior to these roles, he served as the City’s Planning Director where he oversaw plans for South Lake Union’s expansion, along with community plans for the Rainier Valley, Capitol Hill, the University District, and Northgate.
“Seattle Center is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind place – it brings people together from across our community in ways we need now more than ever.” said Foster. “Looking ahead, this is an important moment to re-invest in the people and organizations that make Seattle Center successful, and to chart a bold path forward that grows our mission and leverages partnerships to expand how Seattle Center serves our community.”
An 8-member search committee representing a diverse range of organizations and partners at Seattle Center was formed this spring to inform the search process for the next permanent director. This process included outreach efforts to Seattle Center resident organizations, community partners, and staff to understand the values and experience they wanted to see elevated in the next director.
These engagement efforts showed that the next director would need to both steward the Center’s long-standing values, mission, and commitment to equity while also building new collaborations and partnerships that can grow the Center’s ability to deliver exceptional events and experiences for the community.
Foster will continue to serve as Interim Director until confirmed by the City Council.
What People Are Saying
Andrew J. Lewis, Councilmember, District 7; Chair of Public Assets & Homelessness Committee
“Marshall Foster is one of the most capable problem solvers in local government. There is no better candidate to navigate the Seattle Center through this exciting period of transformation with Memorial Stadium, the return of Bumbershoot, and our legacy building waterfront.”
Robert Nellams, Retired Seattle Center Director
“It does my heart good to know Mayor Harrell has selected someone who can take Seattle Center to a bigger and better place. Marshall has the vision, knowledge, leadership and passion to make Seattle Center the heartbeat of our city.”
Sung Yang, Board President, Seattle Center Foundation; Principal, Pacific Public Affairs; Chair, Seattle Center Director Search Committee
“Marshall has successfully tackled some of the largest projects in the history of our city, including the redevelopment of the Central Waterfront and Sound Transit’s West Seattle Ballard Link Extension project. A dedicated public servant, he is excellent at managing and delivering large and complex projects and knows how to bring different constituencies together to build vibrant and exciting spaces for all to enjoy. He is the proven leader we need at this moment as we work towards the next exciting phase of development and transformation of our beloved Seattle Center.”
Joy Shigaki, President & CEO, Friends of Waterfront Seattle
“Marshall is a seasoned City leader who has demonstrated his deep commitment and care for Seattle and its residents. His delivery of complex civic projects including the soon to be completed Waterfront Park highlights his passion for the city which will extend to the Seattle Center. He will provide the vision, partnerships, and shared leadership for the Seattle Center alongside the talented staff, rich resident organizations, and community partners who make it a dynamic part of the city’s cultural fabric.”
Jeffrey Herrmann, Managing Director, Seattle Rep
“I am thrilled with Marshall’s appointment as the Director of Seattle Center. He has been a great partner to Seattle Rep and every other organization on the Seattle Center campus during his time as Interim Director and, prior to that, as Director of the Office of the Waterfront and Special Projects. The Committee was, of course, very impressed with his deep experience, his success in leading complex projects to completion, and his extensive network of local relationships. But what really came shining through was his intuitive understanding of what makes Seattle Center singular and unique in our region and his expansive, optimistic vision for its future and that of its many resident organizations. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the Mayor’s selection, and I look forward to working with him to move Seattle Center forward at such a transformative time in our city and state.”
About Seattle Center
Connect to the extraordinary at Seattle Center, an active civic, arts, and family gathering place in the core of our city and region. Seattle Center’s 74-acre campus, centered around the International Fountain, is part of the Uptown Arts & Cultural District and home to Climate Pledge Arena; more than 30 cultural, educational, sports, and entertainment organizations; and a broad range of public and community programs. In everything it does, Seattle Center’s mission is to create exceptional events, experiences, and environments which delight and inspire the human spirit to build stronger communities.
In 2023 Seattle Center is expanding its role to provide maintenance and public safety services for Seattle’s new Waterfront Park, a series of new public spaces on Seattle’s downtown waterfront between Pioneer Square and the Seattle Aquarium. Seattle Center will support managing these new waterfront public spaces in partnership with the non-profit Friends of Waterfront Seattle, which offers the community a range of recreational and cultural programming.
Thanks to the support of Official Seattle Center Partners – Alaska Airlines, The Climate Pledge, Coors Light, Pepsi, Premera Blue Cross, Symetra, T-Mobile, and WaFd Bank – Seattle Center is the #1 arts and entertainment destination in the Pacific Northwest with 12 million annual visitors, generating $1.864 billion in business activity and more than $631 million in labor income annually.