Early last week, reports circulated that Amazon submitted a pre-application for a 43-story, 1 million square foot tower in Bellevue, soon to be the most visible element of a sizable corporate expansion in the city.
The 600-foot tower, as yet unnamed, will be designed by Seattle-based architectural firm NBBJ (creators of the company’s Regrade campus and the Spheres) and has a tentative completion date of 2024. According to Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedo, the building serves the purpose of “future hiring in the Seattle area,” as 540 company positions are now open. Roughly half of the jobs are in the company’s operations technology division, which it calls the Last Mile Team, tasked with formulating innovative ways of getting packages from stations to customers.
After the company’s attempt to plant a second headquarters in New York City turned into an arduous saga, and given its reportedly complicated relationship with Seattle’s city government, speculation grew as to whether the company was priming Bellevue for the role of unofficial HQ2. In an email response, Sedo dismissed the claim, writing, “This [tower] is not related to HQ2. Our growth in Bellevue was planned long before our HQ2 announcement.”
Officially, Amazon’s HQ2 is a Northern Virginia sprawl connecting to Washington, D.C., Arlington and Crystal City, effectively creating a new urban district called National Landing. But whether to spite Seattle city politics, compete more closely with Microsoft in Redmond, or simply find greener grass on which to grow, Bellevue has captured the company’s attention.
“It’s been clear for several months now that Amazon is interested in making significant developments in Bellevue, and everybody still scratches their head about what is the full scope of that,” said Joe Fain, president of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. “Obviously, the decision to move their worldwide group over to Bellevue was the first tangible thing you could point and say, ‘Okay, this is happening,’ and with the tower, it’s the second tangible thing that you can say, ‘Alright, this is something that’s actually happening here.’”
Fain said Amazon’s main concern at this point is to develop conscientiously and be a dependable collaborator.
“This is a company that wants to work with City Hall to help prepare for their arrival and the arrival of their thousands of employees, and fortunately, in Bellevue, we have a City Hall that is excited about having that conversation.”
Fain characterized general reception to the news as largely positive, stating that Amazon brings with it a bevy of supporting jobs that feed the city’s construction, restaurant and other service industry.
“That’s the exciting thing about Bellevue in recent years. It’s come alive, not just in the office towers, but on the streets, in the parks and in our community life, and Amazon fuels that as much as it fuels the economy,” Fain said.
Fain, who has been meeting with Amazon’s representatives for several months, also stressed the company’s willingness to put time and capital toward alleviating the pains of its corporate growth.
“Amazon is not blind to the fact that there are externalities to [development], from traffic to housing to the consumption of public services and transit, and they want to be part of the solution,” Fain said.
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story misspelled Joe Fain’s name.