Even as Amazon seeks a second HQ, rumors point to four big new Seattle office leases for tech giant

The downtown Seattle Macy’s building where several floors are being renovated into office space. Amazon is said to be poised to lease the available space. (300 Pine Photo)

Amazon may be ready to plant its flag in another city for a second headquarters, but that doesn’t mean it’s done growing in its first hometown, Seattle.

Even as Amazon requests proposals from other cities for its new “HQ2,” Seattle’s commercial real estate industry is buzzing about the company’s plans to take four more big swaths of space in Seattle. A commercial real estate source who is not involved in the deals told GeekWire that Amazon is set to sign leases totaling more than 1.5 million square feet at 300 Pine, the new Rainier Square project, 9th and Thomas and the former Pemco headquarters. 

This striking tower is part of the Rainier Square redevelopment project. (NBBJ Rendering)

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. In the short term, at least, these moves show the company remains aggressive in growing its footprint in Seattle, although the second headquarters campus, wherever it turns out to be, could ultimately slow or stop Amazon’s expansion in the region where it was founded.

Here are the new properties the company is said to be leasing.

300 Pine: This is a renovation of several floors above the downtown Seattle Macy’s department store. Initially, the space, owned by Starwood Capital Group, was for four floors totaling about 312,000 square feet. But Starwood this week picked up two more floors, bringing the footprint of the space to about 470,000 square feet. Three real estate sources tell GeekWire that Amazon plans to take that entire office space. It would be a bit of an ironic move as a report last year predicated Amazon will pass Macy’s as the nation’s top clothing retailer.

Rainier Square: GeekWire reported last month that Amazon had a pending lease for the office portion of the Rainier Square project, one of the biggest available blocks of space in the area. Sources tell GeekWire that Amazon is poised to move forward with the lease. The project, which shares a downtown Seattle block with the uniquely designed Rainier Tower, includes a 58-story office and residential building as well as a 12-story hotel. The office space totals 710,000 square feet on the lower floors, with 220 residential units above. The adjacent hotel has 165 rooms.

9th & Thomas Building: The 12-story structure has long been thought to be an Amazon target due to its proximity to both of the retail giant’s Seattle campuses. The 156,000-square-foot building will be ready to go in the fourth quarter of the year.

Former Pemco building: GeekWire in July spotted several permits documents listing Amazon as the tenant for an interior renovation project at the former headquarters of Seattle insurance company Pemco at 301 Eastlake Ave. E., just blocks from the online retail giant’s home base in the South Lake Union neighborhood. The structure is not a huge one, with two older, adjoining buildings totaling 168,300 square feet. But its location — right off Interstate 5 next door to REI’s flagship store — is one of the most visible in Seattle.

That Amazon continues to take pretty much every available piece of office space in Seattle is remarkable considering that it is also building out a huge campus in the Denny Triangle neighborhood. Buildings on two blocks of that new campus have already opened, a third is underway, and Amazon is teeing up two more blocks.

Amazon said in its second headquarters announcement that it occupies 33 buildings in Seattle, totaling 8.1 million square feet. HQ2, in a city to be determined, could ultimately be another 8 million square feet, employing 50,000 people. Despite Seattle’s current building boom, there are very few large blocks of available office space left downtown, making it difficult for Amazon to continue its rapid expansion here.

Previously the company has said it plans to occupy at least 12 million square feet in Seattle by 2022. Amazon declined to say whether those plans have changed with the announcement of the second headquarters. However, a person familiar with the company’s plans told GeekWire that Amazon currently has more than 6,000 open positions in Seattle and expects to open 2 million more square feet of office space in the city.

After that, it’s not clear what the company will do. Beyond its core campuses in the South Lake Union and the Denny Triangle neighborhoods, much of the company’s space in Seattle is leased, and will expire at some point. The biggest concern in the real estate community is what will happen when these leases come up. Will Amazon move those teams to the second headquarters, or bring them into one of the main Seattle campuses? Those are just a few of the questions to be answered as the company searches for its second headquarters city.