For only the second time since Amazon came to downtown Seattle, the retailer is allowing a major office lease to expire.
Amazon will move workers out of its offices in Port 99 on Eighth Avenue when the lease expires next April, a company spokesperson said Thursday. Amazon will move about 2,000 employees into office spaces across its Puget Sound headquarters.
The news comes amid a wave of layoffs at the tech and e-commerce giant that will affect 18,000 workers companywide and 2,300 around Puget Sound.
The decision to let the lease expire is not related to the layoffs, the spokesperson said. Rather it is a response to the ongoing shift to remote and hybrid work after the COVID-19 pandemic first sent many people home for work.
Since last summer, the number of office workers present in downtown Seattle has averaged 42% of pre-pandemic levels, according to cellphone tracking data posted by the Downtown Seattle Association.
Amazon isn’t the only company rethinking its use of space in Seattle.
Facebook plans to sublease its offices in two locations: the six-story Arbor Block 333, on Eighth Avenue North in downtown Seattle, and the 11-story Block 6 of the Spring District in Bellevue. Microsoft won’t renew its lease at the 26-story City Center Plaza in Bellevue when that lease ends in June 2024.
But some real estate observers saw Amazon’s departure from Port 99 as especially significant, given the company’s footprint. It’s only the second major lease the company has let expire during its explosive growth over the past decade.
In 2020, Amazon said it would let go of its lease at 2201 Westlake, where it had occupied about half of the building’s 318,000 square feet of office, and would relocate about 1,000 employees.
Amazon’s larger Port 99 lease — around three-quarters of the 539,000 square-foot building — might signal a larger shift in the company’s downtown real-estate strategy, said one Seattle-area real estate insider, who asked to speak anonymously to protect relationships. “This is the first domino,” they said.
Also noteworthy, the insider said: Port 99 sits just a block away from Amazon’s headquarters and near its iconic spheres. “You’d have to imagine that they’d want to keep the closest [buildings] to the mother ship,” the source said.
Before the recent job cuts, Amazon had 55,000 workers in Seattle and 10,000 in Bellevue. On Wednesday, it said the layoffs would affect 1,852 people in Seattle and 448 in Bellevue.
Earlier this year, Amazon paused construction on its Bellevue campus to experiment and reimagine the setup of its traditional work floors amid the shift to hybrid work.
“Our offices are long-term investments, and we want to make sure that we design them in a way that meets our employees’ needs in the future,” John Schoettler, vice president of Global Real Estate and Facilities at Amazon, said in July.
In March, Amazon pulled its workers from its office at 300 Pine Street, the old Macy’s building, citing crime concerns.
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