Amazon plans its tallest tower, marking growing presence in Bellevue

by Benjamin Romano | July 2, 2019 | The Seattle Times

Amazon plans to build a 43-story tower in Bellevue — its tallest building anywhere, as well as the city’s tallest — that would accommodate several thousand employees and signal a deeper commitment to grow in the Eastside city where it has amassed a significant portfolio of office leases.

The company on Tuesday began the formal permitting process for the proposed building, referred to as Bellevue 600. The site is the east half of the Bellevue Corporate Plaza property at 600 108th Ave. N.E. that it bought in April for $195 million.

While the specifics of the proposed building may change as it undergoes review, the size outlined in the company’s pre-application to the city of Bellevue suggests room for nearly 4,200 employees, using the ratio implied by Amazon’s latest Seattle tower. That project — the $650 million, 1.2 million-square-foot re:Invent tower across from the Spheres in the Denny Regrade — will accommodate some 5,000 Amazonians, who are expected to begin moving in this month, the company said last week.

Bellevue 600 would be Amazon’s first construction project in the city where the commerce giant was born 25 years ago and where it is moving an entire corporate division — the worldwide operations organization responsible for delivery of customer orders. Amazon since 2016 has secured a half-dozen other major leases of planned or existing Bellevue offices that total about 1.8 million square feet.

By 2024, the anticipated completion date of the 600 Bellevue tower, Amazon would have enough space in the city for more than 11,000 employees, The Seattle Times estimates, using the re:Invent ratio of employees to building size. The company would not confirm that estimate. Amazon has said only that it plans to house “several thousand” employees in Bellevue over the coming years. The city of Bellevue does not have an updated forecast of employment growth from Amazon’s expansion, a city spokesman said.

Amazon is expanding in Bellevue to tap potential employees on the Eastside who don’t want to commute to Seattle, where it also continues adding workers. The company has more than 540 job openings in Bellevue, mostly in operations technology focused on last-mile delivery. Part of the strategy is to make room for continued growth in Seattle, where it has nearly 11,000 job openings and employs more than 45,000 people.

Amazon praised Bellevue’s amenities, quality of life and “business-friendly environment.”

“We look forward to growing our presence in Bellevue and bringing thousands of jobs to the city,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement. “This includes employees already based in Bellevue, new hires, and the move of some Global Operations teams currently based in Seattle to accommodate for continued expansion of other teams in our South Lake Union campus.”

Amazon has some 11.5 million square feet of office space in Seattle across 47 buildings.

In Bellevue, Amazon’s new tower site fronts a main transit hub and is within a block of the Link light-rail station slated to open in 2023. A 2017 zoning change allowed buildings as high as 600 feet in certain parts of downtown.

The tallest buildings currently include the Bellevue Towers and Lincoln Square towers, at 450 feet, the previous maximum height. They were built as part of a construction boom that has seen Bellevue’s skyline transform in the last decade.

Amazon’s pre-application for the new tower describes public plaza spaces and a connection to Bellevue’s “Grand Connection” — a route for bikes and pedestrians linking the Eastside Rail Corridor east of Interstate 405 with the city’s downtown and Lake Washington waterfront.

The development would also include a large corporate meeting center and underground parking. Amazon plans to build the tower on the footprint of an existing parking structure. The existing 10-story office building on the site is expected to remain intact, with Amazon honoring current leases, the spokesman said.

NBBJ is the project architect.

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