Another day, another Seattle tech campus opening.
Last week, Facebook inaugurated a 600-person building. Expedia’s new Interbay campus opens its doors to the first of 4,500 employees next Monday. And Thursday, Google unveiled the first of its five planned buildings in South Lake Union, an expansion that ups by half the tech company’s Seattle-area footprint.
The Vulcan-developed campus is Google’s first incursion into Amazon’s South Lake Union hub, where Apple and Facebook already have outposts. The companies are close enough that employees at Google’s Boren building and Amazon’s Fiona building have exchanged missives across Mercer Street via arrays of Post-it notes in windows, a spokesperson said. (“Hi, G,” Amazonians wrote. “Hi, A,” Googlers replied.)
Google, which currently employs 4,500 people in the Seattle area, declined to say how many employees will eventually work in South Lake Union. But it’s safe to assume that by the time all five buildings come online in 2022, the neighborhood will be seeing Googlers in the thousands.
And as companies like Amazon, which has said it will add 10,000 Seattle-area jobs, continue to project more hiring in the region, tech giants’ seemingly insatiable appetite for office space isn’t expected to relent.
Google, too, is scaling up for even more local expansion. Earlier this week, Google announced its purchase of two more buildings in Kirkland. Between that and the South Lake Union campus, Google is expected to add 1.3 million square feet to the company’s current 2 million square feet of offices, spread over 14 buildings in Kirkland and Fremont. (That’s still well under Amazon’s approximately 12 million square feet in Seattle alone.)
Swarming around the Seattle-area tech office boom are trendy design concepts, supposed to emphasize collaboration and engagement with the world outside the office: Interconnecting stairs. Biophilia. Murals by local artists. Microkitchens.
Three of the five buildings will be open by the end of the month; one, the site of the crane collapse in April that killed four people, has been operational since August. It bears the hallmarks of a tech office: Tongue-in-cheek references to company products. Pops of neon color, and twisty neon signage. Whimsical conference room names (“Sheepadoodle,” “French press”). And plenty of four-legged Dooglers.
Company tropes abound. Google describes the “clean lines” of the design at its South Lake Union buildings as inspired by the clean functionality of the Google search bar (though four spokespeople struggled to explain just what that meant). Because the campus will house employees working on Google Cloud, among other products, a cafe serving (free) pastries, coffee and other treats with a view of Lake Union Park is called “Nuage,” French for cloud. Near a snack bar, a neon sign urges employees to “keep your head in the clouds.”
At the formal campus inauguration Thursday, Google announced it would donate $1 million to the Seattle Salvation Army to expand its men’s shelter capacity. Google, with second-quarter revenues of $39 billion, says it spurred $18 billion in economic activity statewide last year.
Gov. Jay Inslee, jokingly calling Google an “iconic Washington state company,” saluted the gesture and said he looked forward to a day when all of the state’s children “can grow up and work at Google.”
Until that day, one of the campus’ features will help Google’s non-Washingtonian hires blend in.
It’s wall art, thick chunks of wood emblazoned with facts about Mount Rainier — perfect, a Google transplant leading the tour said, for learning about his new home.