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Ben Franz-Knight
Photo by Ron Wurzer
Aluminaries: Ben Franz-Knight
Market Man

Even when Seattleite Ben Franz-Knight, ’96, was living in Southern California the past 11 years, he had his sights set on returning to Pike Place Market. Not just to shop—but to maybe run the place one day.

Today, his dream has come true.

This fall, Franz-Knight, 37, began his new job as executive director of the Pike Place Market Preservation & Development Authority, the organization that oversees the 103-year-old Seattle institution.

He returns to Seattle after seven years as executive director of the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp., which ran the historic Santa Monica Pier, a major tourist attraction in the Los Angeles area.

How did someone who graduated from the University of Washington in 1996 with a B.F.A. in sculpture get in position to run not one but two beloved, major community organizations? He credits his schooling.

“At the UW, it didn’t matter what coursework you were enrolled in, or what department,” Franz-Knight says. “The expectations for performance and work ethic were really excellent. In the sculpture department, a lot of thought was required to make our creations. It was the strategic thinking, critical thinking, that really helped me.”

He also helped himself by getting hands-on experience in the business world as a bike mechanic at the ASUW bike shop, and later as its manager. He also worked as a buyer for a local bike shop.

“That mix of creative thinking and real-world business experience, along with a healthy dose of navigating political waters, gave me great skills,” he says.

When he and his wife, Kira, ’98, moved to Los Angeles 11 years ago so she could pursue a career in costume design, Franz-Knight landed a temp job at the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp.

There, he worked his way up to administrative assistant and ultimately to executive director. But he always kept his eye on Seattle, and when Carol Binder stepped down as Pike Place Market’s leader in 2010, Franz-Knight leapt at the opportunity.

Now, he’s home—his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles live here—and he is thrilled to be involved in one of the area’s most cherished landmarks.

I came from here, I grew up here, I understand the importance of Pike Place Market,” Franz-Knight says. “I don’t have an agenda for the market beyond making sure it continues to strive and be here for generations to come.”
—Jon Marmor

4 Responses to Aluminaries: Ben Franz-Knight

  1. buddy says:

    super duper

  2. Lydia E. Turet says:

    Good thought! You cared about your roots. You always find something positive to contribute. If every citizen in this nation have the same attitude as you do, we will never suffer from these economic difficulties.

  3. don finch says:

    glad to have you at the market. i am also from los angeles. been to santa monica many times. did play as a xtra on a music video there father of mine. welcome welcome

  4. Gregg Svingen says:

    I happened across this image of Pike Place on an unrelated Seattle search from my home away from home in Brussels. As soon as I saw the picture I knew exactly why Ben was standing there without reading the accompanying. Man am I ever proud to see Pike Place run by a truly dedicated straight up person like Ben. I should know: We were room mates and bike buddies at UW in Seattle which I still consider home. Congratulations Pike Place, Congratulations Ben — if you’re reading, I have something from you that I brought back with me from Santa Monica on the last trip to my birthplace LA. Be curious.

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