There has been no decision whether to move forward with an overhaul, a source says. The company says it’s always working on “Microsoft campus plans to anticipate future needs.”
Microsoft is considering a multibillion-dollar revamp of its headquarters campus in Redmond, seeking to foster more collaboration among employees and attract young engineers, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
The software giant has hired architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill as part of the effort, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plans aren’t public. Skidmore Owings designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and is helping Microsoft with a makeover of its much smaller campus in Mountain View, Calif.
Microsoft hasn’t yet decided whether to move forward with the Redmond overhaul, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
“We continually work on Microsoft campus plans to anticipate future needs,” the company said in a statement. A representative at Skidmore Owings’s San Francisco office didn’t return calls and emails for comment.
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The potential updates would be aimed at shifting away from private offices toward the more open-plan work spaces that are favored by today’s technology companies, said the people. Microsoft has been in Redmond since shortly before going public in 1986, a time when suburban campuses were in vogue. It now occupies about 80 buildings on roughly 500 acres.
The company owns the majority of the campus. Microsoft has already renovated some of its buildings to add open work space in place of private offices.
A broader makeover would include new construction and redevelopment of existing buildings, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.
It could add amenities such as restaurants, retail spaces and public artwork, in addition to apartments to house visiting employees and interns, they said.
Microsoft says it has a development agreement with the city of Redmond allowing for an expansion of an additional 1.4 million square feet.
A spokeswoman for the city said on Friday that Redmond’s planning department hadn’t received any new proposals from Microsoft related to the revamp under consideration.
The company, on its website, says it owns or leases 14.7 million square feet in the Puget Sound area.
Many technology companies have chosen to buy, develop or lease office space in or near city centers to attract millennial workers who favor a more urban lifestyle. Microsoft wants to make the most of its suburban setting, by leveraging more of its outdoor areas, said the people with knowledge of the matter.
“Employees’ tastes have changed,” said Matt Griffin, managing partner of Seattle-based commercial developer Pine Street Group. “Thirty years ago, they wanted to be on a college campus. If Microsoft thinks they’re losing employees, they might try to make it more of an urban campus.”
The last major reshaping of Microsoft’s Redmond campus began with an announcement in 2006 of plans to add about 3.1 million square feet, space for an additional 12,000 employees.
The 2008 recession delayed those plans, though, and at least one major new building from that revamp remains under construction.
Microsoft employs about 42,000 people in the region, up from about 30,000 when the company announced that growth. Those workers are located chiefly in Redmond, as well as in a cluster of towers in downtown Bellevue and smaller satellites, including in Seattle.
The company, which dramatically grew its Bellevue footprint in recent years, pulled back earlier this year, vacating about 167,000 square feet of office space in The Bravern 1 tower.
The Redmond campus is split into west and east sides by Highway 520.
Microsoft has agreed to help pay for a new pedestrian and bicycle path over the freeway. The plans now under consideration could entail a larger lid in the form of a park or buildings, said the people.
There also is a new light-rail station under development at a transit center on campus, in the Overlake neighborhood.
Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with an opening scheduled for 2023. The new station would be known as the Redmond Technology Center Station and include more parking spaces and covered facilities for bikes.