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Originally published Sunday, November 21, 2010 at 10:19 PM

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Microsoft has spent $1 billion on expansion in recent years

Google may be expanding at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters, but Microsoft has already gone and done it.

Seattle Times technology reporter

Google may be expanding at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but Microsoft has already gone and done it.

The company has just spent three years aggressively expanding its footprint in the Puget Sound area, spending $1 billion to reduce overcrowding and accommodate new hires.

Between 2006 and the end of 2009, the campus grew by one-third, enough space to accommodate 12,000 employees. The company now owns and leases 15 million square feet of real estate in the Puget Sound area alone.

"We were crowded at the time and we had people on top of people in existing buildings," said Lou Gellos, Microsoft spokesman. "At the same time a lot of our different businesses were growing ... so there was a need to find space."

The company has expanded the campus dramatically in Redmond and has leased a large chunk of office space in Bellevue and Seattle.

In 2007, Microsoft had 35,510 employees in the Puget Sound region. At the end of September this year, it had 40,371 employees in the area.

The biggest changes over the past few years have taken place at the main campus. New buildings sprung up, including Building 99, Building 92, the four Entertainment and Devices division buildings, and the splashiest of all, The Commons.

Finished last year, The Commons has two buildings with a large food court, conference space, shopping area, a pub and a spa connected by large patios and fountains.

The company bought property previously owned by Safeco, Eddie Bauer and Nintendo in Redmond. When the economic downturn hit in late 2008, Microsoft pulled back on one building that was in the preconstruction stage and did not finish building it. For now the building area is fenced off.

In Bellevue, Microsoft has been a key player in bringing more workers into the city's downtown area. The company leased space for thousands of Online Services division employees who work on Bing and MSN. They have moved into The Bravern, Lincoln Square and City Center buildings in downtown Bellevue, and to the Advanta Office Commons in Eastgate.

In Seattle, the company moved into office space in the new Group Health Building in South Lake Union and leased offices in Sodo.

Microsoft said it does not have immediate plans for further expansion.

"I don't know that we are contemplating building something right now, but we're always looking," Gellos said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com

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