Why the recent tech slowdown isn’t bad for Bellevue’s business

If you’re looking for silver linings amid the recent Puget Sound tech sector layoffs, just look across the lake. Back in 2021, Bellevue’s tech scene was flourishing, as Amazon, Meta and other companies expanded to the east of Seattle. Since then, the hybrid workforce trend and recent tech layoffs are admittedly slowing the boom, but Bellevue continues to be an appealing alternative to Seattle. 

Like in Seattle, office vacancies in Bellevue are increasing, just at a different pace. At the end of 2023, the office vacancy rate in Bellevue’s city center was 9.7 percent, according to Kidder Mathews. By comparison, Seattle’s vacancy rate stood at 24 percent.

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson points to the city’s commitment to transportation, green spaces, public safety and public schools as some of the city’s strengths in attracting and retaining both companies and residents.

Despite Meta subleasing its Bellevue space since last year, Microsoft letting go of millions of square feet in the city, and Amazon pausing construction on a portion of its downtown Bellevue development plans, Robinson remains happy with the city’s status as an excellent Seattle alternative.

Amazon’s much-discussed growth in the city has been more gradual than previously expected, with about 11,000 employees currently in Bellevue versus the 25,000 previously predicted. This has given the city time to adapt to the demand for new homes and urban infrastructure. For example, the Bellevue City Council approved funding for 350 affordable-housing units in Bellevue and nearly 900 on the Eastside. And the new Sound Transit light rail line is expected to open in late 2024, connecting Bellevue to Redmond, the Microsoft campus and, eventually, Seattle.

Amazon is supporting an affordable-housing project in downtown Bellevue with a below-market-rate loan, which speaks to its continued interest and investment in the area.

While the company and other regional tech giants may be slowing their roll in Bellevue, there are now greater openings for mid-sized tech ventures and those companies that seek smaller leases and were previously unable to compete with the bigger industry players. Stock-trading platform Robinhood, Lumen, Zymeworks Biopharmaceuticals, ByteDance and Pokémon have all recently signed deals to expand in Bellevue. Newer startups are setting up shop, too, including Rhythms, Symbiosys and Center. And there’s plenty of room: According to analysts, there are 4.5 million square feet of available space downtown and Bellevue boosters are confident it will be filled alongside current tech ventures.

According to Mayor Robinson, the presence of startups “makes for a really healthy ecosystem.” Along with supporting the city’s new entrepreneurs and its current tech and telecommunications companies, Bellevue hopes to attract life sciences businesses.

This post was based on information found on GeekWire

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