Safeco plans to move more than 1,300 jobs across Lake Washington, deciding by midsummer whether to consolidate two groups of headquarters employees in Seattle's University District...
Safeco plans to move more than 1,300 jobs across Lake Washington, deciding by midsummer whether to consolidate two groups of headquarters employees in Seattle’s University District or Redmond.
The decision to consolidate was prompted by Safeco’s sale of its life-insurance and investments group last year, said spokesman Paul Hollie. That group, renamed Symetra Financial, occupies roughly a third of Safeco’s Redmond campus and plans to move to Bellevue this summer.
“We haven’t set down a firm date, but we certainly intend to do something before Symetra moves off campus,” Hollie said.
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Safeco employs about 1,350 people in Redmond and roughly 1,600 in the University District, and it owns most of the buildings it occupies on both sites.
Safeco owns offices space totaling about 537,000 square feet in Seattle, including a 22-story tower that is a fixture of the University District.
It leases an additional 132,000 square feet in that area, Hollie said.
The University District has two major real-estate users, the University of Washington and Safeco, said Kip Spencer, co-founder of OfficeSpace.com, a Seattle-based commercial-real-estate data company.
“If you were to lose one of them, it would have a significant impact on that market,” Spencer said.
Real-estate experts say the university might be interested in the space if Safeco leaves.
In Redmond, Microsoft is considered the most likely occupant if Safeco moves out.
Redmond Mayor Rosemarie Ives said the city will not try to lure Safeco headquarters by offering benefits not available to other local businesses. The Redmond campus already occupies more than 840,000 square feet, and a development agreement allows Safeco to add 445,000 square feet, Ives said.
A Safeco spokesman estimated the square footage in Redmond at closer to 730,000 square feet.
In any case, it is considerably larger than the company’s Seattle office space.
Jill Nishi, director of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, said that “to the extent that they need additional space in a consolidation, we are prepared to support them on that.”
Asked whether the city would offer any incentives to keep Safeco in the University District, Nishi said, “At this point we are in initial conversations with Safeco and trying to be responsive to them.”
Safeco Chief Executive Mike McGavick lives in North Seattle, but Hollie said that will not be a factor in determining where to consolidate headquarters.
Real-estate observers say it is difficult to estimate which property might fetch more if Safeco were to put one on the market.
The Safeco sites are “totally different,” said Bruce Blume, founder and chairman of The Blume Co., which mostly develops office space in the Seattle area. “Redmond is a suburban office campus, and the University District is an urban high-rise,” he said.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org