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Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson cuts the ribbon to officially welcome Meta to the Spring District development on Tuesday. (GeekWire Image / Kurt Schlosser)

With cranes still swinging overhead and construction continuing on the Spring District in Bellevue, Wash., Meta officially threw open the doors Tuesday on its own offices at the sprawling development.

During an open house at the Block 16 building, company executives, local officials and community partners helped the tech giant celebrate its commitment to a region in which it now employs more than 8,000 people.

“Ten years ago, the Spring District was an industrial corridor, with dreams of becoming an urban village, and today it is 36 acres of the largest transit-oriented development on the West Coast,” Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson said as she cut a blue ribbon inside Block 16. “It’s my pleasure to officially welcome Meta to the Spring District and to Bellevue.”

Long after it arrived in the Seattle area — as Facebook — to open an engineering outpost, Meta continues to build out a hub that stretches from Seattle’s South Lake Union to Bellevue to Redmond. In the Spring District alone, the company has signed leases on five buildings totaling over 1.4 million square feet of office space, including Block 20, a building that was originally going to be a new REI headquarters.

A map of Spring District properties in Bellevue, Wash. (Spring District Image)

The 11-story Block 16 is one of three buildings in the Spring District that are up and running. It has all of the usual benchmarks of a modern tech workplace — even as companies coming out of almost three years of pandemic-induced disruption grapple with just how much space they’ll need for workers who have gone remote and hybrid.

Paresh Rajwat, Meta’s new head of office in the Pacific Northwest, called the region critical to Meta’s work as he ticked off numerous products being developed in Bellevue and elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of really, really cool things that have come from this region. And Mark [Zuckerberg] wants to keep pushing more and more of what the Pacific Northwest can do and the innovation that we can try.”

In a nod to Meta’s big bet on the immersive, futuristic internet, Rajwat repeated what he said in an interview with GeekWire last week, that “the road to the metaverse passes through the Pacific Northwest.”

“We are all over the U.S. We are all over internationally. But every office looks at this particular region on how to replicate and how to run an office outside of our headquarters,” Rajwat said.

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson, left, and Meta’s Paresh Rajwat use Quest 2 VR headsets during an event in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Robinson and Rajwat were among those checking out some of Meta’s innovation firsthand as they tried on Quest 2 virtual reality headsets and Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, which allow users to snap photos and videos, listen to music and take calls.

Some of that tech is taking on an even more local connection. During the Meta Connect conference earlier Tuesday, Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced an expanded partnership in which Microsoft’s Windows, Office, Teams and other programs will be available for the new Meta Quest Pro and existing Meta Quest 2 headsets.

Aside from the tech and innovation, Meta’s commitment to the arts is on full display at the Spring District campus. The Meta Open Arts team is charged with filling Meta buildings around the world with site-specific art, and in the Spring District that includes 32 installations created by 34 artists across three buildings so far.

Meta Open Arts curator Tamar Benzikry shows off some of the artwork that’s been commissioned for the company’s offices. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Artists are encouraged to use new materials, think about the intersection of art and technology in new ways or simply make the biggest thing they’ve ever made, according to Tamar Benzikry, Meta Open Arts curator and producer for the region.

“It’s not really about acquiring artworks that you could move or that could become part of the art market,” Benzikry said. “It’s about investing in local artists, asking them, ‘What is your dream project? How can we help you build it? How can we help you do it in a way that’s really playing with, questioning and prodding and helping us to see our technology differently?”

A visitor to Meta’s offices activates a QR code on the artwork “Emerging Radiance.” A screen shot of the artwork’s augmented reality interaction is at right. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)
A mural commemorating the Japanese American farmers who lived and worked in Bellevue in the 1920s to 1940s. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

In Block 16, one such celebrated piece is “Emerging Radiance,” a painted mural that wraps a conference room’s outer walls and comes to life with augmented reality. Recordings tell the stories of Japanese American families who lived on the farmland where Meta’s offices now sit before their internment during World War II. A version of the artwork by artist Michelle Kumata won a Tribeca Award.

Near the ground floor entrance of the building, Meta employees may find their own artistic inspiration in an Open Arts maker space which encourages tactile creativity. Employees can use 3D printers, try traditional ink screen printing or just dabble with media of varying kinds to get a break from their engineering day jobs.

The Meta Open Arts maker space in Block 16 in Bellevue’s Spring District. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Previous coverage:

Bellevue’s boom: City’s tech industry is poised to eat Seattle’s lunch

Meta grabbing more space in Bellevue’s Spring District with lease of fifth office building

Density dilemma: Bellevue faces housing hurdles with massive tech growth on the horizon

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