Google Grows, Will Join Amazon in Seattle’s South Lake Union

Google plans to move and expand its Seattle offices from the Fremont neighborhood to South Lake Union, best known today for Amazon’s ever-growing corporate headquarters.

Vulcan, the business empire of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and developer of most of the South Lake Union neighborhood over the last decade, is planning four buildings with some 607,000 square feet of space for Google on Mercer Street between Terry and Fairview avenues, the company said in a news release Thursday.

Amazon may have been in the neighborhood first, but it’s Google that will get the front-row seats on Lake Union.

“South Lake Union is a thriving hub and we’re excited for our new space,” Clyde McQueen, Google Seattle site lead, said in a news release. “We’ve loved being in the Fremont neighborhood but will need a bit more breathing room. We’ll still catch a view of Lake Union, just from a new location. We’re looking forward to walking, biking and riding the streetcar through the neighborhood.”

The new buildings would provide around 62 percent more floor space than Google has in its recently expanded campus in Kirkland, WA. That 375,000-square-foot facility—the technology giant’s second largest engineering center outside of its Mountain View, CA, headquarters—has room enough for nearly double the 1,000 people working there now, according to The Seattle Times.

If the new Google Seattle offices afford a similar amount of space per employee, this project could signal plans for upwards of 3,200 workers in Seattle proper. (This is my own estimate based on a quick, rough calculation using published numbers: 375,000 square feet in Kirkland divided by the approximately 2,000 potential Google Kirkland employees there equals 187.5 square feet per employee. In Seattle, 607,000 square feet divided by 187.5 square feet per employee equals 3,237 employees. A Google representative declined to comment on employment projections.)

Google opened its Kirkland office in 2004, a sales office in Seattle in 2006, and an engineering office in Seattle in 2007.

Three of the new Google buildings—for which Vulcan and designer Graphite Design Group are targeting LEED Gold certification, with bonus points for storm-water management to protect salmon—will be topped with 8- to 9-stories of apartments, with a total of 151 market-rate units featuring unobstructed Lake Union and city views (and very short commutes for Googlers, should they choose to live there).

Vulcan plans 812 new parking spaces below the buildings, as well as a passel of amenities for pedestrians and cyclists. The site is also immediately adjacent to the South Lake Union Streetcar line. The entire project is known as Lakefront. Construction is set to begin next year. Google is agreeing to lease terms of 14 to 16 years, Vulcan said.

Space is tight around the city and region for technology companies large and small—and anyone else competing with them for office space—but particularly in the neighborhoods surrounding Lake Union and downtown. Google’s erstwhile Fremont neighbor, Tableau Software, is leasing some 208,000 square feet in a new building on the north shore of Lake Union, making room for some 1,300 new employees. Facebook, meanwhile, is preparing to move its Seattle offices to the new Dexter Station building, where it will occupy some 274,000 square feet of office space, room for up to 2,000 employees. And Expedia is pulling up stakes in Bellevue, WA, to move to a major new campus on the site of the former Amgen Helix campus along Elliott Bay.

If the last decade of growth wasn’t enough to make your head spin, by 2019, when this project is set to be completed, Seattle’s physical technology landscape will have changed significantly from what it is today. And keep in mind that Vulcan’s portfolio of as-yet undeveloped South Lake Union property totals 18 acres (not including the Lakefront project), with development capacity of about 3 million to 4 million square feet, according to an e-mail from Lori Mason Curran, Vulcan’s real estate investment strategy director.

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