Legal Community Mourns Attorney Who Helped Shape Seattle

Melody McCutcheon’s  projects ranged from Safeco Field to the Yesler Terrace housing redevelopment

Published in 2017 Washington Super Lawyers — July 2017

Melody B. McCutcheon, who passed away unexpectedly on Nov. 14 at age 64, was a key player in shaping much of the landscape in Seattle and environs.

“Probably the most well-known one was Safeco Field,” said Gary Fallon, a banking attorney and managing partner at Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson, where McCutcheon practiced land use/zoning and environmental law for 29 years. “The Mariners loved her, and she did all the work associated with getting that permitted and built. She did a lot of work with Vulcan in their projects around town. She was also instrumental in the redevelopment of Yesler Terrace housing project.

“She was really a consummate attorney and partner at the law firm. You couldn’t ask for more: somebody who pitched in on every aspect of the practice. Not just doing work for her clients, but helping in the administration of the firm; and she was on the strategic planning committee and helped with us on our development committee helping with client-development issues. She always had great input.”

McCutcheon’s other major projects included the Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill, billed as the world’s greenest office building and showcasing cutting-edge conservation features. She also helped acquire landmark status for many of the region’s historic buildings, including the Sorrento Hotel, a 1909 Italian Renaissance-style building on First Hill.

She was also involved in projects for Seattle Aquarium, Safeco Field, South Lake Union, and the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Transportation 2040 Plan. In a 2015 feature in Washington Super Lawyers Magazine, she said her proudest accomplishment was the key role she played in sweeping redevelopment of Yesler Terrace public housing community, owned by the Seattle Housing Authority.

“It’s also hit hard at home,” Fallon said. “My wife (Leona De Rocco) was really close to Melody; they played tennis together about three times a week. It was a complete shock to everybody. My wife had just played tennis with her on Saturday and they’d had dinner. She seemed perfectly healthy, and she really took care of herself.”

McCutcheon had been scheduled for retirement in March and was looking forward to spending more time with her daughter in California and son in New York, and to traveling, Fallon said, noting, “She was always an intrepid traveler.”

The firm is planning a memorial service for McCutcheon, but at the request of her children, will schedule it after the first of the year.

McCutcheon was “the person who put her nose to the grindstone and got the work done,” Fallon said. “My wife would emphasize what a great tennis partner she was, and how much the team depended on her and how she was always supportive of everybody’s efforts and a great team player. Just as she was as a partner in the law firm.”

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