Amazon Would Be Big Part of Bellevue’s Continuing Growth

Rumors have surfaced that Amazon will be opening an office on the Eastside at the new Schnitzer West building in downtown Bellevue. An article published last month by GeekWire announced that the Seattle-based electronic commerce and cloud-computing company signed a lease for a 354,000-square-foot office space at the new Centre 425.

Amazon has not yet commented regarding the potential lease, but the report coincides with similar rumors that spread earlier this summer. In August, for example, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported that the online retail giant would become the tenant in a new downtown Bellevue office.

Information about the rumored lease follows the recent launch of Amazon’s new commuter shuttle, Amazon Ride, a pilot program that started in October. The new shuttle program aims to make commuting from the Eastside to Amazon’s Seattle campus easier for employees living in Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah. Both Amazon Ride and the possible lease at Centre 425 are signs that Amazon is working to better link itself to its Eastside employees and Bellevue, the city where the company was founded by CEO Jeff Bezos in 1994.

“If Amazon opens a location in Bellevue, it will further enhance the city’s identity as a must-be location for innovation-intensive companies and contribute to the already incredible technology scene of downtown,” said James Henderson, Bellevue’s economic development director.

And Amazon isn’t the only company with its sights set on Bellevue. REI, Salesforce, and ICBC —a Chinese multi-national banking company, all are reported to be moving in over the next few years, helping to reinforce Bellevue’s reputation as a viable alternative to Silicon Valley.

“In many ways, especially in the technology sphere where talent is a number one factor, (businesses like Salesforce moving here) continues that compelling message that Bellevue is the place these companies want to be. That acts as an attractor for talent,” Henderson said.

But more than just attracting talent, these businesses pique the interest of other businesses, creating a sort of domino effect. “It has a bigger impact than you would think,” Henderson said.

And there’s plenty of room for more companies to move to the area. With Expedia vacating its Bellevue office in 2019 and a slew of new construction slated to deliver between now and mid-2020, Henderson said he expects to see an influx of new businesses  — and an increase in residency — in the city’s near future.

“We’re seeing a lot of residential construction downtown,” Henderson said. “We’re predicting downtown will be the largest neighborhood with 19,000 people living there.”

Those predictions match those of a recent report released by Colliers International that forecasts an overall spike in jobs, residency, and retail options in Bellevue over the next three years. Colliers International senior research associate Bobby Shanahan said this is the most development downtown has seen in a while. “Things have really changed in the last six months,” he said. “There’s a lot of tenant demand in downtown Bellevue, and there’s a lot of leasing going on at new construction.”

Whether Amazon will be a part of Bellevue’s new growth is yet to be determined, but if the rumors are true, the Bellevue-born company might be returning home, expanding its presence back to the place where it all began.

“The future of downtown Bellevue is bright,” Shanahan said, “and there’s a lot of momentum going forward.”