Safeco today announced it will consolidate and expand its operations in Seattle's University District, moving about 1,350 employees out of its Redmond offices.

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Safeco today announced it will consolidate and expand its operations in Seattle’s University District, moving about 1,350 employees out of its Redmond offices.

The news, announced by Safeco Chairman Mike McGavick at a morning press conference, was hailed by Seattle officials as a boon to the University District, which has struggled in recent years.

The insurer has about 1,600 employees in its 22-story University Distict office tower, which would double to 3,200 with the addition of the Redmond workers plus a projected growth of about 250 new employees.

“The University District of Seattle has been Safeco’s home since 1936, and we look forward to it being our home for many years to come,” said McGavick.

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The company’s plan is contingent on getting some help from the city. Safeco has asked for its property to be rezoned so it can build a new 125 foot office tower, which is taller than the current 65-foot building height limit. The new building would be connected to the current one with a skybridge or tunnel. The company also would tear down an International House of Pancakes next to its current headquarters for additional offices.

The company also wants an expanded underground parking garage and hopes to work with Sound Transit so the agency’s planned light rail station does not conflict with the development.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and several City Council members said the city would work swiftly to take up Safeco’s requests. The move to the University District is expected to take about three years.