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May 8, 2014

Jim Potter remembered as a creative developer

Seattle area real estate developer James B. “Jim” Potter died May 6 of cancer. He was 59.

A statement released by his family said as a teenager he attended Te Aroha College in New Zealand for two years, before graduating from Nathan Hale High School and later the University of Washington, where he completed a BA in business administration with a concentration on finance and urban development.


Potter started his career as a sales agent in residential and commercial real estate in 1974 with a concentration on multifamily land and buildings. Ten years later, he started a company to develop multifamily properties.

In 1987 he founded Kauri Investments, naming the firm after a tree that grows in New Zealand.

“Jim was larger than life in so many ways and has been both an inspiration and mentor to me and more people than I can count in both how he lived as a family man and how he did business,” said Kent Angier, president and CEO of Kauri Investments. “As anyone who knew Jim knows, he was a planner and forward-thinker. After being diagnosed he spent his last three months as he lived — divided between his family and friends and putting his affairs in order so that his businesses could live long beyond him.”

Potter's family asset management company, La Serena Holdings, has more than 50 real estate projects from Olympia to Burlington. La Serena also manages several other businesses, including Lynnwood Bowl and Skate, and Seattle Hostel at the American Hotel.

Potter founded a company called Footprint Investments LLC that specializes in microhousing. Footprint is expanding into Portland and Oakland, California.

In 2013 he hired Cathy Reines to be CEO of Footprint. Potter often said his entire career led him to microhousing because it could help more people live affordably in cities.

“Jim was one of the most creative real estate developers that I've ever had the privilege of working with,” said Dan Piantanida, vice president of G.P. Realty Finance. “He always had the ability to find niches that were not being served by traditional real estate developers. It was that instinct that was one of the main factors leading to the birth of microhousing. He was a dear friend and mentor, and I miss him tremendously.”

Potter is survived by his wife, Rebecca Ann Potter, and three grown children: Wesley, Jayred and Lisa-Baylee; parents Bill and Joan Potter; brother Doug (Karen); sister Jill; as well as an aunt, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Erin Scannell, a business associate and close friend, said Potter always wanted to have a positive impact on people's lives.

“In business he didn't do the same successful thing over and over,” Scannell said. “He would see things that no one else saw and with that created many successful businesses. When I would ask him why he did so many different things, he always said, ‘I'm having fun with it.'”

Potter served on numerous boards including WellSpring Family Services of King County and America, Master Builders of King and Snohomish County, Boy Scouts of America, Seattle Rotary and the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

A memorial will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Boy Scouts of America, WellSpring Family Services, Nature Bridge, or Associates in Cultural Exchange.

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