Amazon backs out of massive Seattle office tower as questions swirl about growth plans
Updated with Amazon’s confirmation below.
Amazon has placed a high-profile Seattle office project on the sublease market, signaling plans to scale down its growth in its hometown.
A marketing flier obtained by GeekWire confirms that the tech giant is seeking new tenants for its office space in Rainier Square, a building under construction that will one day be the city’s second-tallest skyscraper. Amazon had leased all 30 floors of office space in the building. After weeks of rumors, the listing was made official over the weekend, according to real estate brokers familiar with the marketing efforts. Amazon will make all of the office space it leased in Rainier Square available to other companies.
The skyscraper project, once an emblem of Amazon’s ambitions in Seattle’s urban core, now becomes a symbol of its uncertain future in its hometown. The move follows Amazon’s decision to back out of its HQ2 project in New York City after opposition there, amid signs that the company will focus its Seattle-area growth in nearby Bellevue, Wash.
Real estate company JLL is listing the space on the company’s behalf, according to the flier.
Related: Amazon’s future in Seattle uncertain as neighboring city looks more and more like HQ2
Earlier this month, a real estate broker who represents tenants in downtown Seattle told GeekWire that Apple, Dropbox, and Oracle were “circling” as possible tenants for Rainier Square, which is located at 4th and Union Street.
Amazon pulling out of Rainier Square follows the company’s surprise decision to nix plans to open a 25,000-person office in New York. Earlier this month, Amazon canceled its New York “HQ2,” blaming elected officials who vowed to fight the deal.
The New York resistance effort mirrored opposition Amazon faces in Seattle. It’s not hard to draw a line between the battles; two Seattle City Councilmembers traveled to New York to warn Amazon opponents about what it’s like to have the company in your backyard.
Rainier Square was at the center of a heated tax battle between Amazon and Seattle last year that became emblematic of the company’s troubled relationship with its hometown. As Seattle considered a tax on top-grossing businesses to fund affordable housing, Amazon threatened not to move into Rainier Square, claiming the City Council’s approach “forces us to question our growth here.” Although Amazon came out on top in that dispute, its future at Rainier Square remained uncertain.
Amazon currently occupies 12 million square feet of office space in Seattle and has several additional projects under construction. The company will “continue to evaluate future growth” when those projects are finished, an Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire previously.
From 2013 to 2017, Amazon scooped up at least 800,000 square feet of office space in Seattle every year, according to GeekWire research. But aside from confirming a pair of previously reported leases last year, Amazon hasn’t snapped up any additional office space in Seattle proper.
But in neighboring Bellevue, Amazon is leasing more than 1 million square feet of office space and is rumored to be looking for a lot more.
Update 10:30 a.m. An Amazon spokesperson provided the statement below, confirming plans to sublease Rainier Square.
“We are currently building two million square feet of office space in our South Lake Union campus in Seattle. We are always evaluating our space requirements and intend to sublease Rainer Square based on current plans. We have more than 9,000 open roles in Seattle and will continue to evaluate future growth.”
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