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Friday, February 10, 2006 - Page updated at 11:47 AM

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Huge Microsoft expansion to ripple through region

Seattle Times technology reporter

Microsoft is adding the equivalent of two Googles to its Redmond campus over the next three years, spending $1 billion to build or buy 14 buildings with space for up to 12,000 employees. The plans, detailed Thursday, would result in one of the world's largest corporate campuses, spread out on the woodsy plateau near Lake Sammamish.

Government officials said the project would boost the state economy and could add momentum to regional transportation projects, including plans to replace the Evergreen Point Floating Bridge.

Gov. Christine Gregoire said the project also challenges the state to improve its education system, so that state residents have a better chance of filling the new jobs.

The company floated its redevelopment plans a year ago and received Redmond's approval to proceed last summer, but it had planned to spread the work over the next 10 to 20 years. Thursday, it announced the project is speeding up and would be nearly half done over the next three years.

"This reflects our confidence in the future and our commitment to the region," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and senior vice president. He appeared at a news conference with Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims and Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives.

Under work to be completed over the next three years, Microsoft is increasing its Redmond campus by a third. It's adding 3.1 million square feet of office space, including seven new buildings totaling 1.1 million square feet and seven buildings it has acquired. The acquired buildings include the former Redmond offices of Eddie Bauer and Safeco.

For comparison, that's more than twice the capacity of Seattle's tallest skyscraper, the Columbia Tower. The expansion is also more than double the size of Google's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.

Expansion by the numbers


3.1 million: Square footage being added.

10 million: Campus's total square footage after expansion.

Up to 12,000: Employees to be accommodated by the expansion.

30,255: Number of Microsoft employees in Puget Sound area. There are 63,564 worldwide.

Source: Microsoft

The search giant, which has 5,680 employees, is adding 1 million square feet to the 500,000 it now occupies in Mountain View, Calif., according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.

Microsoft's expansion plans would bring its total Redmond campus to more than 10 million square feet, creating what may be the world's largest headquarters facility in a single location, said Chris Owens, Microsoft's general manager of real estate and facilities.

Microsoft employed 30,255 people locally as of Sept. 30, and 63,564 people worldwide.

The Redmond growth comes at a time when Microsoft is simultaneously expanding its presence around the world. It has been adding small research facilities in countries with large concentrations of skilled programmers, and it is building smaller campuses in India and China for engineering, sales and support centers.

The project also comes as Redmond and surrounding communities are forced to cope with traffic congestion that Microsoft's expansion may exacerbate. Traffic concerns were raised at hearings last year by residents in communities such as Bellevue's Bridle Trails and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods, as well as subdivisions adjacent to the campus.

Officials noted that Microsoft is supporting regional transportation projects. They focused on positive aspects of the project Thursday, praising Microsoft for continuing to invest in the Puget Sound region, and for other contributions to the area.

A campus grows in Redmond


Here's how Microsoft's expansion plan for the next three years breaks down.

New construction

• One building on main campus, east of Highway 520.

• Six buildings west of Highway 520.

Acquired buildings

• Five buildings on Safeco Redmond campus.

• One building purchased from Eddie Bauer.

• One building purchased from State Farm.

Leased space

Additional new leased buildings, including at Redmond Town Center.

Transportation

$35 million toward street and sewer improvements, including overpass for Highway 520.

Source: Microsoft

"Let's be honest with each other — when it's exciting for Microsoft, it's exciting for the city, it's exciting for the region and it's exciting for the state," Gregoire said, adding that Microsoft is "a great example of global success equals local growth."

Ives praised its environmental ethos, the contributions its employees make to local organizations and the diversity it creates by drawing people from around the world to her city.

Sims noted Microsoft's support of regional transportation projects and philanthropic efforts, including computer-education programs in urban, poor neighborhoods such as White Center. He said "there's no bigger compliment" the region can get than Microsoft's commitment to an expansion here.

"Its size and its rapidity is just mind-boggling," he said.

Under its agreement with Redmond, Microsoft would also spend $35 million on road and infrastructure improvements, including a new Highway 520 overpass to connect Northeast 36th and Northeast 31st streets.

Microsoft has already budgeted for the expansion, so it won't change forecasts of the company's financial performance, Smith said.

It expects to continue adding thousands of new employees every year who would fill a wide variety of jobs. But the construction doesn't mean it will actually add 12,000 because some new offices will be occupied by current employees who have been doubling up in offices, he said.

Construction on the first building, a new headquarters for Microsoft's advanced-research group, began just after the politicians spoke Thursday, when Rob Short, vice president of Windows core technology, used a large yellow excavator to begin demolishing an old storage facility.

Short bid $1,100 in the company's United Way auction to spend an hour tearing down a building on campus.

After taking a ceremonial chunk out of the building, sending dust onto the officials, media and publicity agents, Short took a break until the crowd dispersed.

"I'm seriously into it, but they don't want me driving this around with all the dignitaries present; they're afraid I'll hurt someone," he said.

Work on a second Microsoft campus in Issaquah remains indefinitely on hold. The company began acquiring land there in the late 1990s after Redmond placed a temporary moratorium on office construction.

"We continue to look at Issaquah as another opportunity for long-term development," Smith said Thursday.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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