Google is expanding its presence in Microsoft's backyard and is close to signing a lease for 15,000 feet of office space in downtown Kirkland...

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Google is expanding its presence in Microsoft’s backyard and is close to signing a lease for 15,000 feet of office space in downtown Kirkland, according to the company’s real-estate broker.

The company is also keeping an eye on some of the major office developments planned for downtown Bellevue, but is nowhere near making a commitment, said the broker, Dan Foster of Flinn Ferguson Corporate Real Estate in Seattle.

Rumors have been flying for weeks that Google might be interested in moving to Bellevue, perhaps to the posh Lincoln Square, which opened some of its retail and hotel space earlier this month. The corporate headquarters of Eddie Bauer is the only confirmed tenant for Lincoln Square’s office building, which is expected to begin construction early next year.

There’s no truth to the Bellevue rumors, Foster said. But Google is interested in the opportunities it could find in the city, if it wanted to. Foster added that he keeps the company informed about all the corporate real-estate developments in the area.

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“They like to be educated about the market,” he said.

Lincoln Square’s development company, owned by Kemper Freeman Jr., does not comment on any rumors related to its lease negotiations, a spokeswoman said.

Google, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on any expansion plans.

Google opened a research-and-development office in Kirkland in mid-2004, but by last November it had placed only 10 employees there. Now its headcount ranges between 150 and 200 employees, and the office has expanded to the top two floors — about 47,000 square feet — of the building, Foster said.

He would not say exactly where in downtown Kirkland the company is looking, but said a draft lease could be ready in the next couple of weeks.

Google has long been interested in downtown Kirkland, he said. Before its offices opened last year, engineers occupied a small executive suite in Kirkland’s Carillon Point.

The Kirkland office has been one of the fastest growing at the company. It is home to graduates from the University of Washington and relocated Googlers from the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. About 55 UW alumni work throughout the company, but fewer than a dozen are in the Kirkland office, said Ed Lazowska, a professor in the university’s Computer Science & Engineering Department.

And much to the chagrin of its Redmond rival, the office also has claimed its share of Microsoft employees.

The potential employee exodus has been a cause for concern at Microsoft. In March 2004, executives as high as Chairman Bill Gates discussed over e-mail the threat of losing people to Google. The subject of those messages, but not the content, came out in court hearings earlier this year in the case of Kai-Fu Lee, an executive Microsoft sued after he jumped ship for Google.

Many of the buildings under construction in downtown Bellevue won’t be completed for years. That’s a long time for a fast-moving company like Google to wait, said some real-estate brokers. If Google were to move into hundreds of thousands of square feet in one of those buildings, it would definitely send a message, one said.

It would be “clearly aimed at trying to position themselves for a major hiring initiative,” said Tom Bohman, Eastside director at Cushman & Wakefield.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or