Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos became the richest person in history Monday when his net-worth eclipsed $US105.1 billion after Amazon shares climbed 1.4%.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the previous record-holder, saw his net-worth pass $US100 billion in 1999. It is now around $US91.9 billion.
But both mega-billionaires live in the tiny waterfront city of Medina, Washington, located just outside of Seattle.
They are far from the only moneyed residents. The town’s inhabitants include numerous other Microsoft bigwigs, tech entrepreneurs, and telecom magnates.
We visited to see why the sleepy town has become a haven for the 1%.
Medina is located on a peninsula just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and it has long been a haven for tech bigwigs in the area.
Visitors enter the town from the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. Measuring 7,708 feet in length, it is the longest floating bridge in the world.
Source: The Seattle Times
Medina is a city of about 3,000 people. The Medina Beach Park doubles as the city hall and police station.
The city has a spectacular view of Seattle, Lake Washington, and the surrounding area. You feel miles away from Seattle’s bustling downtown from here.
Almost all of the houses on the water in Medina have a dock and a small private beach. Lake Washington is a popular place for swimming, water sports, and boating in the summer.
The town is filled with evergreens. Medina was designated as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation in 2006.
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
While the roads are lined with evergreens and shrubs, the houses tend have their own distinct vegetation and landscaping. This property was dotted with palms.
The best-known street in the city is Evergreen Point Road. Because the road runs along the water, it is a who’s who of luxury real estate. Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and several Microsoft executives live on the street.
Evergreen Point Road, like most of Medina, was very quiet. A car passed here or there, but for the most part the neighbourhood was eerily peaceful.
That is, until a police car rolled up moments after I took this photo. The officer said a neighbour had called about me walking around. It was an unsettling moment. I had been in Medina less than 15 minutes.
The town is almost entirely residential. The Medina Grocery & Deli and this post office appear to be the only sources of commercial activity.
There is a mural on the side of the post office recounting the incorporation of Medina in 1955. The city was first settled in 1891 and named after a city in Saudi Arabia.
The Wells Medina Nursery, a plant store about a mile from the post office, is the only other store in town. Most shopping can be done in nearby Bellevue.
The houses on the waterfront side of Evergreen Point Road were all blocked by high gates. The mansions looked massive, but it was hard to see inside.
The landscaping on most of the properties was impeccable.
These “lending libraries” were dotted on some of the streets, and the town is filled with expansive and beautiful parks.
Cameras, motion sensors, and other forms of surveillance are outside every house on the waterfront side.
The houses on the other side of Evergreen Point Road are still elaborate, but not on the same level as the waterfront properties.
Just up the road from the post office and grocery store is Jeff Bezos’ house. There isn’t much to see. A tall gate and hedges block any view from the road. Bezos’ estate spans 5.3 acres and includes a 20,000-square-foot house and an 8,300-square-foot house.
Bezos paid $US10 million for the estate in 1998, but it underwent a $US28 million renovation in 2010, around which time he bought the 24,000-square-foot house next door. That house was rumoured to have sold for at least $US53 million.
In 2009, Medina installed city-wide surveillance that included cameras at every intersection and a system that automatically cross-references licence plates with crime databases. It was criticised by activists, but a council member told The Seattle Times that crime prevention “outweighs concern over privacy.”
Source: The Seattle Times
City council members deny they are trying to create a gated-community atmosphere, but considering my run-in with a police officer while simply walking on footpaths with a camera, that’s exactly what it felt like.
Bill Gates lives about a half mile up the road from Bezos in this $US125 million compound he nicknamed “Xanadu 2.0.” The 66,000-square-foot house is brimming with state-of-the-art technology.
Of course, it has a spectacular view of Lake Washington. The house has a 23-car garage, six kitchens, 24 bathrooms, and a reception hall that can accommodate 200 guests.
Source: Business Insider
The Overlake Country Club in Medina has been open since 1927. Membership to the club is only by invitation.
Source: Overlake Club
The billionaire Charles Simonyi owns this house known as Villa Simonyi, or the “Windows 2000 House,” because it has 2,000 windows. Simonyi made his fortune heading up the Microsoft unit that created Word and Excel.
If you think you’d like to move to Medina, this house just off the second fairway of the country club is listed for $US7.2 million. It has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and a “brilliant open floor plan.”
This 6,120-square-foot house is also on the market. A cool $US7.56 million buys you a five-bedroom, six-bath designed by the famed interior decorator Nate Berkus.
The median home value in Medina is $US1.56 million, and the median household income is $US174,000. But not all the houses in Medina are extravagant. There are many simpler abodes, like the one pictured here.
The town adjacent to Medina, Hunts Point, isn’t anything to sneeze at either. With about 500 residents, its median household income is slightly higher at $US180,000. The median property value is $US2 million.