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Friday, August 12, 2016

Apple rumored to be taking a big bite out of Seattle-area office market with potential expansion

Photo Illustration by Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire, original photo by Dan Hershman, via Flickr.
Photo Illustration by Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire, original photo by Dan Hershman, via Flickr.

Real estate industry insiders are buzzing that a “large California company” is looking for a big piece of office space in the Seattle area, and rumor has it that it’s Apple.

A major expansion by the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant could make sense, given that the company just last week dropped $200 million on Seattle startup Turi, a machine learning company founded by University of Washington computer science professor Carlos Guestrin.

At this point, we’ve been unable to confirm exactly where Apple may be headed in the Seattle area, but multiple sources say the footprint could be huge, several hundred thousand square feet. The rumors we’ve heard also pre-date Apple’s acquisition of Turi.

Multiple sources told GeekWire that Apple may be considering properties in downtown Bellevue, including Schnitzer West’s 16-story Centre 425 building, which is under construction and set to open later this year. Assuming standard corporate leasing ratios of approximately 150 to 250 square feet per employee, approximately 1,400 to 2,300 people could work out of the 354,000 square feet of office space in the building.

Representatives of Apple and Schnitzer West declined to comment.

Two other office projects in downtown Bellevue are under construction: the 462,000-square-foot 929 Office Tower and the 710,000-square-foot Lincoln Square expansion office tower. The team developing the 929 building signed Salesforce to a 75,000-square-feet lease last year, while Valve recently agreed to take approximately 225,000-square-feet at Lincoln Square. In Seattle, there are several large office buildings with large blocks of available space planned or under construction.

Apple already has a presence in the Seattle area, albeit a small one. Last year Apple leased one floor and part of another at the Two Union Square office tower in downtown Seattle.

Apple spent several months prior to that building a small team in a temporary office in Ballard. GeekWire first reported on Apple’s arrival in the Seattle area through the November 2014 acquisition of Union Bay Networks, a Seattle startup backed by Madrona Venture Group and led by former F5 executives.

If a deal in downtown Bellevue were to go through it would be a big shot in the arm for an area that was looking at some sizable office vacancy over the next few years. In addition to the office buildings set to open soon, Expedia is leaving downtown Bellevue for Seattle in 2019. But the Valve and Salesforce deals, combined with a possible Apple move, would show that there are plenty of companies ready to step up to fill the void.

A potential Apple expansion would follow the trend of other tech giants like Facebook, Google, Alibaba, Snapchat and others building engineering outposts in the Seattle area.

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