Expedia confirmed that it plans to keep at least a chunk of office space in its current hometown of Bellevue beyond the timeline of its 2019 departure across Lake Washington with a final destination of the Seattle waterfront.
The travel giant has agreed to extend a lease at a building called Skyline Tower in Bellevue to hold onto three floors of office space totaling 55,000 until at least 2022 with room for about 500 employees.
Instead of a fixed office for certain teams or employees, the space will be available for employees to book for a certain amount of days per month, Mark Nagle, Expedia’s vice president of global real estate, said in a statement.
“As is traditional with Expedia culture, we adjust over time to meet the needs of our employees,” Nagle said. “We found that there was a desire to keep some space on the Eastside as an option for employees as we transition to Seattle.”
The new space will be much smaller than Expedia’s current footprint in downtown Bellevue, where it occupies more than 500,000 square feet in three office buildings. But still, it’s another good sign for the downtown office market, which just a few years ago was looking at as much as 20 percent of space becoming vacant with Expedia’s looming departure and a series of new buildings under construction. But news that Amazon is coming to downtown Bellevue, as well as a few other deals in recent years have filled up pretty much all the available big spaces in downtown Bellevue.
In 2015, Expedia announced plans to re-locate its headquarters from Bellevue to Seattle, paying biotech giant Amgen $229 million for its prized waterfront campus on Elliott Bay. The company is trading in a vertical headquarters for a campus closer to the feel of a Google or Apple HQ that happens to be just minutes from downtown. Expedia will renovate the old Amgen lab buildings and build a couple new structures to accommodate its growing workforce.
Originally, Expedia’s initial buildout plan included redeveloping four lab buildings on the former Amgen site and building a new 600,000-square-foot structure on the campus. That would give Expedia a total of about 1.2 million square feet when it moves in 2019. But the company on a quarterly earnings call over the summer said it is scaling back what it wants to have in place when the move occurs.
The scaled back plan still includes redeveloping the existing lab buildings by 2019 but holding off on the new structure for now. Expedia has said it is focused on building out the space it needs for the 2019 move and will re-examine future needs later.
Expedia also has eventual plans for “Phase II” and “Phase III” that could expand the campus to 1.9 million square feet and accommodate up to approximately 8,000 employees. These phases are part of a major phased development permit that Expedia is pursuing from the city, which looks at the campus over a 15-year timeframe.
Though the move raises Expedia’s cache locally by giving it a signature headquarters, it will also drastically increase the commutes of many employees. Nagle said Expedia emphasizes flexible work arrangements, so it’s possible that between working remotely and the new Bellevue office, some employees could be spared the commute.
The decision to keep office space on both sides of Lake Washington has become increasingly common among tech companies looking to recruit top talent in the competitive Seattle area. Having offices on both sides of the lake gives companies access to a greater diversity of talent, both those who prefer the more urban experience of Seattle as well as the suburban workforce.
Google was one of the first tech companies to invest heavily on both sides of the lake with offices in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood and the city of Kirkland. Tableau Software, and most recently Amazon, are among the other big tech companies with presences in Seattle and on the Eastside.