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Facebook will buy REI's unused Bellevue headquarters complex, signalling offices are still relevant

By Katherine Khashimova Long, The Seattle Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

SEATTLE - Facebook will buy REI's so-new-it's-never-been-used Bellevue, Wash., campus for nearly $368 million, the social media giant announced today.

The move further consolidates Facebook's Eastside mini-empire in the upscale, multiuse Spring District east of I-405. Before the acquisition of the 400,000-square-foot REI offices, Facebook was already on track to lease nearly 850,000 square feet in three under-construction Spring District buildings.

Facebook, which opened its first Puget Sound office in 2010 with three engineers, now employs more than 5,000 local workers across 3 million square feet of space in dozens of locations in Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond, placing it neck-and-neck with Google for the title of the area's largest out-of-town tech employer.

The Seattle area is home to Facebook's second-largest engineering hub, after its Menlo Park headquarters.

"Our growth over the last decade is a testament to the thriving community and immense talent pool that has welcomed us with open arms," said Nick Raby, Facebook's director of North American real estate, in a statement. "This purchase doubles downs on our investment in Bellevue and our commitment to the Pacific Northwest."

The company declined to say how many employees it expects to work in its now-larger Spring District complex - and uncertainty about how much space workers will need in a post-COVID-19 landscape makes the number difficult to estimate. Before the pandemic, office employers typically budgeted roughly 150 square feet of space per person. Now, many companies are reconfiguring floor plans to allow workers to maintain six feet of social distance in the office, doubling or tripling space-per-person allowances.

 

Even a conservative estimate for Facebook's hiring plans, though, puts the number of Facebook employees expected to trickle into the Spring District in the many thousands. The full number may not be known until the last of Facebook's three leased Spring District offices opens in 2023. The company currently has more than 400 open job listings in the Seattle area.

The deal signals that there is "no single approach" for white-collar employers envisioning the future of office space as work-from-home regimes stretch into their seventh month, said Greg Johnson, the CEO of Spring District developer Wright Runstad & Company.

REI decided to let its three-building Spring District campus go after the pandemic battered sales, leading the outdoor equipment retailer to conclude that it couldn't afford not to sell the space, which it acquired in 2017 for $49.3 million. The company's work-from-home program also proved to be surprisingly successful, said Ben Steele, REI's chief customer officer. REI had last October agreed to sell its former Kent headquarters to an industrial developer which plans to build warehouses on the site.

Moving forward, REI plans to rely more heavily on remote work.It will also establish three smaller, satellite offices - on the Eastside, in South Puget Sound and at its existing location in Georgetown, said spokesperson Halley Knigge.

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