Amazon to Expand HQ—Again

Vulcan Real Estate is developing a sixth phase of Amazon's campus in Seattle's South Lake Union submarket.

Hard on the heels of putting up for sale the headquarters campus it has built for over the past five years, Vulcan Real Estate, of Seattle, announced Tuesday that it will be developing yet another phase, the sixth, of that campus, in Seattle’s South Lake Union submarket.

The 380,000-square-foot expansion will consist of two interconnected buildings of five and six stories, as well as landscaped open space along Westlake and 9th avenues between Mercer and Republican streets. The $160 million project will total 365,000 square feet of office space and 15,000 square feet of street-level retail, as well as below-grade parking for 546 vehicles on three levels.

The project team is seeking a partial alley vacation to allow for an east-west 7,800-square-foot public pedestrian galleria with landscaped open space. The streetcar stop at Westlake Avenue North will be incorporated into the public space and will include weather protection and seating.

LEED Gold certification will be targeted; green features will include rain gardens and operable windows. In addition, the project will have cyclist-friendly amenities such as public bike racks, a bike fix-it station, lighting and provisions for a future bike-share facility.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2013 and Amazon is expected to move in by early 2015. The lease term is 16 years.

The architect is Zimmer Gunsul Frasca, and the general contractor will be GLY Construction.

The current overall office vacancy rate for Seattle, Stuart Williams, managing director with Jones Lang LaSalle’s Seattle office, told Commercial Property Executive, is about 14 percent, having receded from a peak of about 18 to 20 percent.

SLU, however, is a different story. The second-quarter vacancy rate in that submarket’s approximately 7 million square feet of office space, according to figures from JLL, is an amazing 1.9 percent.

Although Amazon is Seattle’s largest, and SLU’s highest-profile, office tenant, Williams emphasized that there are plenty of other major tenants in and near SLU, with, rather unusually, nary a bank or law firm among them.

Foremost among these, he said, is the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (about 1.5 million square feet), while others include retailer Nordstrom (about 1 million square feet in five buildings), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (about 600,000 square feet), the University of Washington School of Medicine, Safeco, global architecture firm NBBJ, and clothiers Tommy Bahama and Cutter & Buck.

SLU’s appeal, Williams said, is partly just because “Tech has been growing, and tech tends to like low-rise to mid-rise buildings.” The submarket’s combination of office, retail, multifamily and restaurants is a potent one, he added. “Employees are drawn to it. It has that vibrant feel.”