Amazon is doubling down — and going up — in Bellevue, Wash., unveiling plans to build its tallest skyscraper ever, and the tallest building in the growing city 10 miles east of its Seattle headquarters location.
The project, dubbed 600 Bellevue, is the latest signal that Bellevue has become the focal point of Amazon’s future growth, as the company repeatedly clashes with Seattle officials.
With about 1 million square feet, the building will have room for several thousand employees, according to Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedo, and it will be home to the crucial Worldwide Operations team, which is migrating to Bellevue from Seattle over the next few years. Amazon expects the building to be complete by 2024.
The Seattle Times first reported on the 43-story, 600-foot skyscraper that will be built on a site Amazon purchased earlier this year for $195 million. Amazon has filed a pre-application package for the project, Sedo said, and details could change as the plans develop. The site is on top of a future light rail station, and it could serve as a hub connecting Amazon’s offices in both Seattle and Bellevue.
Amazon opened its first Bellevue office building in 2017. In less than two years, the company’s footprint has multiplied to more than 1 million square feet.
Today, Amazon has about 500 people in Bellevue, and another 500 open positions based there. A flurry of recent office leases in addition to this project open up space for tens of thousands of employees to descend upon the city in the next few years.
Bellevue’s current tallest buildings include the Bellevue Towers and Lincoln Square at 42 stories, or 450 feet.
In April, GeekWire reported on Amazon’s plans to relocate the Worldwide Operations team, an organization with thousands of employees that covers company’s vast delivery and logistics business. It’s the arm responsible for getting packages to customers’ doors, with more than 175 operating fulfillment centers around the world. The team also manages Amazon’s thousands of delivery truck trailers and its fleet of 40 airplanes. New logistics initiatives, like Amazon’s “Delivery Service Partners” program, also fall under the worldwide operations purview.
The move allows Amazon to continue tapping the Seattle region’s deep talent pool but lets the company escape some of the friction it is experiencing in its hometown.
Bellevue was Amazon’s original birthplace, but CEO Jeff Bezos moved the company’s headquarters to Seattle early on. Amazon’s rapid growth in Seattle has fomented frustration and made the company a target of some government officials who want it to do more to mitigate the city’s growing pains. There’s also limited commercial real estate available in Seattle proper, with other tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple gobbling up their own space.
GeekWire reached out to the City of Bellevue for comment. A spokesperson referred us to Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak’s statement from April after news of Amazon’s decision to relocate its Worldwide Operations team.
“We’re excited by today’s announcement that Amazon plans to expand its presence in Bellevue,” Chelminiak said in April. “As a community we’ve worked hard to anticipate this type of positive growth downtown, and Amazon is a natural fit. It’s also critical that these types of jobs stay in the region.
“Bellevue values our business community and we look forward to working with the company as their transition progresses. Welcome home, Amazon!”
Earlier this year, Amazon abandoned plans to build a second headquarters in New York City amid backlash that mirrored criticism the company faces in its hometown. Amazon’s eagerness to grow in Bellevue has fueled speculation that the city will become the de facto HQ2.
But Amazon’s focus on Bellevue doesn’t mean the company has given up on Seattle. Last week, Amazon unveiled its new re:Invent building on its Seattle campus with room for 5,000 employees. Amazon currently employs 45,000 people in Seattle and has close to 11,000 job openings in the city.