Expedia’s new waterfront headquarters in Seattle could one day grow into a 1.6 million-square-foot campus, according to transit planning documents obtained by GeekWire.
FOLLOW-UP: Inside Expedia’s expansion plans: New Seattle campus could hold up to 12,000 workers by 2030
That’s about three times as much space as the company occupies in its current headquarters in a Bellevue high-rise, and about 1 million square feet more than the existing buildings on the slice of prime Seattle real estate, acquired by the company in April for $229 million.
At 1.6 million square feet, the campus would contain more space than Columbia Center, Seattle’s largest skyscraper — a much larger potential footprint than the travel giant has previously disclosed.
Expedia spokeswoman Sarah Gavin said the company is simply laying the groundwork for possible future expansion as part of routine long-term planning. It’s designed to give the company headroom through about 2030, but isn’t tied to any immediate growth plans, she said.
The larger potential development of the site was disclosed in a Transportation Management Plan filed by Expedia with the city of Seattle, obtained by GeekWire through a public records request. According to the document, the new plan is designed “to accommodate the conversion of use at the property from research and development to office and to anticipate future expansion of uses at the site.”
Despite that reference to “future expansion of uses,” Expedia says it has no specific plans for future development beyond its near-term office needs.
The 40-acre site, which formerly housed biotech giant Amgen, was already approved for 1.3 million square feet of total space. But Expedia wants to make sure it has enough space for future growth, after its planned move in 2018.
Expedia executives said when they first bought the property in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood that the company planned to build about 200,000 square feet of office space, in addition to the roughly 670,000 square feet of space already there, much of which will be converted to office space from R&D.
That’s still the plan for the immediate buildout, Gavin said. But the fact that Expedia is seeking early approval for much more development underscores the massive size of the company’s new headquarters site. The property includes a large, vacant swath of land, known as Pier 89, that would be ripe for future development. That land is also just across the water from a cruise ship terminal — which could come in handy for a travel company like Expedia.
The company doesn’t have any immediate plans for that vacant land, other than to see if the architecture firm handling the work has any ideas, Gavin said. That firm is Seattle-based Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, the same group behind the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan and other high-profile projects.
Expedia currently employs 3,000 people in the region, and could grow to as many as 4,500 by the time it moves to the campus. The kind of growth Expedia is talking about can pose serious challenges for the city’s transportation infrastructure, which is already being stretched as nearby Amazon grows faster than ever before.
In anticipation of future development and the impact it could have on an already gridlocked part of Seattle, the city formed a transportation management plan with the company.
According to the plan, Expedia aims to eventually have less than 30 percent of its roughly 3,000 employees at the headquarters drive to work alone. As of 2012, the company reported it was sitting around 45 percent.
Included in a list of programs to help get that number down, the company plans to run Microsoft-like shuttle buses for workers, offer “daily financial incentives” to commuters who don’t drive and offer 100 percent subsidies on public transit.
Gavin said the company already does some of that, like buying bus passes for workers. As for the other initiatives, the company is still holding focus groups to figure out “what they actually need, not just what we think they need.” The 30 percent goal is ambitious, she said, “but it’s also something we’re going to work on early.”