Where shoppers once browsed blouses in a Redmond department store, software engineers will build Amazon cloud-computing databases.
Amazon planned to announce Monday it has leased the 111,000-square-foot former Macy’s department store at Redmond Town Center. The store was shuttered early in 2019, part of a wave of closures as the retail industry, even before the coronavirus pandemic, was transformed by online shopping options and changing consumer preferences.
The move gives Amazon another outpost in the backyard of its biggest rival in cloud computing, Microsoft. Some Amazon Web Services employees work in Amazon’s Bellevue offices, but when it opens next year, the Redmond office, with space for more than 600 engineers and other employees working on database services, will be the first dedicated AWS location on the Eastside. The location is a few steps from a Link Light Rail station planned to begin service in 2024.
John Schoettler, Amazon vice president of global real estate and facilities, said the new Redmond office is part of the company’s strategy of continued growth in the Puget Sound region. In January, Amazon outlined plans to have at least 15,000 employees in Bellevue in the coming years, adding to more than 50,000 people in its Seattle offices in South Lake Union and the Denny Regrade. The company is maintaining the rest of its Puget Sound area offices as it adds space in Redmond, a spokesperson said.
“In addition to Redmond’s strong existing talent pool and close access to our Seattle and Bellevue locations, these new facilities will also provide more flexible work options for employees, allowing us to continue our sustainable growth in the region for years to come,” Schoettler said in a statement.
It will be the second Redmond office for Amazon. The company said in December it would base its satellite business, Project Kuiper, a little more than a mile away.
The latest addition to Amazon’s real estate portfolio, albeit small, indicates the company continues to see a future with tens of thousands of workers gathering together in offices, even as other tech companies have reconsidered that model three months into widespread work-from-home arrangements.
Amazon has said employees who are able to do their jobs from home can continue doing so through at least Oct. 2, though the progression of the pandemic remains difficult to predict. Models updated last week by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington show infections and deaths nationwide increasing into the fall.
Amazon has instituted temperature checks, physical distancing measures and more frequent cleaning across its operations. It provides employees hand sanitizer and face coverings and is ramping up its own coronavirus testing capabilities.
Whether by coincidence or design, Amazon has found suitable office locations in former department stores — erstwhile anchors of shopping malls trying to reinvent themselves — that online retail has helped drive out of business. The Redmond Town Center site will be the second former Macy’s store in the region that Amazon will occupy. Before sending most of its office workers home in early March, Amazon had employees in the upper six floors of the iconic downtown Seattle department store that was most recently a Macy’s, and previously The Bon Marché. The downtown Macy’s closed in February.