A proposed Microsoft campus expansion to house thousands more workers could cause surrounding streets to become practically impassable...
A proposed Microsoft campus expansion to house thousands more workers could cause surrounding streets to become practically impassable, residents told the Redmond City Council last night.
Residents from Bellevue’s Bridle Trails and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods, which are near Microsoft’s Redmond campus, voiced concerns over the company’s proposed 2.2-million-square-foot expansion.
“Microsoft employees by the thousands cut through our neighborhoods now,” said Heidi Benz-Merritt, who lives in the Bridle Trails area. “There are lots of things that can be done with Microsoft’s technology … if Microsoft had the political will to use it.”
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The council also heard from Microsoft executives who laid out the details of a development agreement they are asking the city to approve. The agreement spells out how Microsoft plans to expand its Redmond campus during the next 10 to 20 years. The new development would include about 16 new buildings and accompanying parking garages, and would allow the company to hire 10,000 to 20,000 new employees, said Jim Stanton, Microsoft’s senior community-affairs manager for real estate and facilities.
As part of the proposal, Microsoft would agree to fund about $30 million in transportation and infrastructure improvements. The largest chunk of cash — $15 million — would go toward a bridge extending Northeast 36th Street over Highway 520, said Rob Odle, Redmond’s policy planning manager.
Microsoft would also pay to install new traffic signals near the campus and improve stormwater basins, Odle said.
The Redmond city staff is recommending that the City Council approve the development agreement, with some modifications, Odle said. The city wants the agreement to ensure that Microsoft’s funding will increase to keep pace with inflation, or as cost estimates change.
The City Council will continue to discuss Microsoft’s proposal during a study session Tuesday. It will likely make a decision sometime in April, Odle said.
Microsoft already owns the land it is proposing to develop, and even if the City Council were to reject the development agreement, the company could keep developing the campus in a piecemeal way, Stanton said. The development agreement would allow the city and Microsoft to work together on transportation improvements to accommodate the growth, he said.
Microsoft’s proposal is also in keeping with an agreement between Bellevue and Redmond regarding how the Overlake area — where the company is located — should be developed. The two-city agreement put a cap of no more than 2.8 million square feet of new development in the Overlake area.
Nintendo of America, which also is near Microsoft, plans to expand its campus as well. Molly Lawrence, an attorney for Nintendo, spoke during the public hearing, asking the city to also consider its desire to expand.
The video-game company is concerned about being subject to the development cap if Microsoft’s agreement is approved, Lawrence said.
Mayor Rosemarie Ives said she hopes Microsoft’s development plans will spur state and regional governments to consider broader transportation improvements to better link Redmond and Seattle.
“I’m hopeful that with the intention for Microsoft to grow in Redmond, and the need to connect Seattle and Redmond is heightened, that the region and state will step up to the mark in investing in the [Highway] 520 corridor,” Ives. “We’d like to see an investment in high-capacity technology, which could be in the form of the monorail or light rail.”
Microsoft’s proposal shows the company is committed to staying in the city and the Puget Sound region, Brad Smith, Microsoft senior vice president, told the council.
“We recognize we need to be a good neighbor,” Smith said.
Rachel Tuinstra: 206-515-5637 or email@example.com