Bellevue Weathers the Pandemic with a Bright Outlook for the Future

A challenging situation for most people, businesses and cities alike, COVID-19 hasn’t shaken Bellevue as the city gears up for what appears to be a booming future. While Seattle has reeled from the lack of foot traffic affecting street-level businesses and the shift of major employers like Amazon and Facebook to remote work, Bellevue keeps getting good news on the employer front.

Most notably, downtown Bellevue is preparing for an influx of Amazon employees into the city within the next five years. In February the tech giant announced it would add 15,000 employees to its existing Bellevue workforce. Then just this month the company announced its plans to bring an additional 10,000 jobs into the area. With more than 25,000 employees in Bellevue, Amazon’s operations in the city will equal or surpass those of its HQ2 in Virginia.

To accommodate these employees, Amazon has leased 2 million square feet of office space from Seattle-based real estate company Vulcan. The two leased properties are the 555 Tower and West Main, which are in walking distance of the future Sound Transit Downtown Bellevue Station, which will open in 2023.

In conjunction with this, Amazon is set to begin development on its new Bellevue 600 office space — a 27-story office tower with retail and public space. The project is aiming for LEED Gold certification, and is set to be completed in 2025, although construction has not yet begun.

While Amazon is settling more firmly into Bellevue, another local company, REI, has pulled out. The recreation retailer was set to move its headquarters from Kent to Bellevue’s newly built Spring District over the summer. Due to the pandemic, REI chose instead to pivot and close its never-used campus and focus on more flexible work-from-home arrangements.

The unused headquarters didn’t sit idle for long though, as Facebook has since bought the 400,000-square foot campus from REI for $390 million. In 2019, Facebook had previously purchased another office space in Bellevue’s Spring District. Outside of Silicon Valley, Seattle is Facebook’s largest hub, but with the recent expansion, that too may change. Bellevue remains an attractive destination for employers and the city’s resilience in today’s cloudy business landscape is proof that its future shines bright.

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