Inside the secretive waterfront town that's home to Bill Gates' $125 million 'Xanadu 2.0' and Jeff Bezos' $91 million estate

Read full story

MedinaSeattle (12 of 35) Harrison Jacobs/Business Insider Most of the town is equipped with surveillance cameras.

Forget about the Upper East Side of New York or Atherton, California, as bastions for the ultra-rich.

The tiny waterfront city of Medina, Washington, is where several of the world's wealthiest people live.

Located just outside of Seattle, Medina is home to the world's top two richest people - Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos .

But they are far from the only moneyed residents. The town's inhabitants include a number of other Microsoft bigwigs, tech entrepreneurs, and telecom magnates.

We visited to see why the sleepy town has become a haven for the 1%.

View As: One Page Slides

Medina is located on a peninsula, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and has long been a haven for tech bigwigs in the area.

Medina is located on a peninsula, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, and has long been a haven for tech bigwigs in the area.

Visitors enter the town from the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. At 7,708 feet-long, it is the longest floating bridge in the world.

Visitors enter the town from the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge. At 7,708 feet-long, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 most famous 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.

The most famous 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 neighborhood was eerily peaceful.

Evergreen Point Road, like most of Medina, was very quiet. A car passed here or there, but for the most part the neighborhood was eerily peaceful.

That is, until a police car rolled up moments after I took this photo. The officer said a neighbor had called about me walking around. It was an unsettling moment. I had been in Medina less than 15 minutes.

That is, until a police car rolled up moments after I took this photo. The officer said a neighbor 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.

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.

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, about a mile from the post office, is the only other store in town. Most shopping can be done in nearby Bellevue.

The Wells Medina Nursery, 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 a 8,300 square-foot house.

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 a 8,300 square-foot house.

Bezos paid $10 million for the estate in 1998, but it underwent a $28 million renovation in 2010, around which time he bought the 24,000 square-foot house next door. That house was rumored to have sold for at least $53 million.

Bezos paid $10 million for the estate in 1998, but it underwent a $28 million renovation in 2010, around which time he bought the 24,000 square-foot house next door. That house was rumored to have sold for at least $53 million.

Source: BizJournal

In 2009, Medina installed city-wide surveillance that included cameras at every intersection and a system that automatically cross-references license plates with crime databases. It was been criticized by rights activists but a council member told the Seattle Times crime prevention "outweighs concern over privacy."

In 2009, Medina installed city-wide surveillance that included cameras at every intersection and a system that automatically cross-references license plates with crime databases. It was been criticized by rights activists but a council member told the Seattle Times 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 sidewalks with a camera, that's exactly what it felt like.

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 sidewalks with a camera, that's exactly what it felt like.

Bill Gates lives about a half mile up the road from Bezos in this $125 million compound he nicknamed "Xanadu 2.0." The 66,000 square-foot house is brimming with state-of-the-art technology.

Bill Gates lives about a half mile up the road from Bezos in this $125 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.

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 invitation only.

The Overlake Country Club in Medina has been open since 1927. Membership to the club is invitation only.

Source: Overlake Club

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.

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 $7.2 million. It has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and a "brilliant open floor plan."

If you think you'd like to move to Medina, this house just off the second fairway of the country club is listed for $7.2 million. It has seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, and a "brilliant open floor plan."

Source: Zillow

This 6,120 square-foot house is also on the market. A cool $7.56 million buys you a 5-bedroom, 6-bath designed by famed interior decorator Nate Berkus.

This 6,120 square-foot house is also on the market. A cool $7.56 million buys you a 5-bedroom, 6-bath designed by famed interior decorator Nate Berkus.

Source: Zillow

The median home value in Medina is $1.56 million and the median household income is $174,000. But not all the houses in Medina are extravagant. There are many simpler abodes, like the one pictured here.

The median home value in Medina is $1.56 million and the median household income is $174,000. But not all the houses in Medina are extravagant. There are many simpler abodes, like the one pictured here.

Sources: DataUSA

The town adjacent to Medina, Hunt's Point, isn't anything to sneeze at either. With around 500 residents, its median household income is slightly higher at $180,000. The median property value is $2 million.

The town adjacent to Medina, Hunt's Point, isn't anything to sneeze at either. With around 500 residents, its median household income is slightly higher at $180,000. The median property value is $2 million.

Source: DataUSA

The entire town is a single evergreen-lined road called Hunt's Point Road.

The entire town is a single evergreen-lined road called Hunt's Point Road.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who currently owns the Los Angeles Clippers, lives next door. The relatively modest house has only four bedrooms and is located on two acres.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who currently owns the Los Angeles Clippers, lives next door. The relatively modest house has only four bedrooms and is located on two acres.

This estate is owned by Seattle telecom billionaire Craig McCaw, who founded McCaw Cellular (which was later purchased by AT&T). McCaw purchased it from famed saxophonist Kenny G.

This estate is owned by Seattle telecom billionaire Craig McCaw, who founded McCaw Cellular (which was later purchased by AT&T). McCaw purchased it from famed saxophonist Kenny G.
Add Comment()

Comments ()

X
Sort By:
Be the first one to comment.
We have sent you a verification email. This comment will be published once verification is done.