By Jack Stubbs
Facebook today showcased its new 150,000 square foot Westlake Office in South Lake Union which will allow the company to grow its presence in the Puget Sound region.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome you here today and share with you that Facebook is expanding again here in Seattle. Seattle has changed drastically over the last seven years since we started [here] in Seattle in 2010,” said Eva Kness, Facebook office lead in Seattle, at the event held on Tuesday, March 13th.
The six-story building, located at 1101 Westlake Ave. N., is just across the street from the tech company’s office at Dexter Station, a roughly 346,000 10-story Class A office building which they’ve occupied since early 2016 and which is now home to approximately 2,000 employees. The new building next door, which houses the company’s second largest engineering office outside of its Menlo Park headquarters, has room for 900 additional employees and marks the latest chapter for the social media technology company in the region.
The project team for Facebook’s Westlake office includes Studious Architecture, Venture General Contracting, Magnusson Klemencic Associates (structural engineer), Sazan Group (mechanical, electrical, plumbing and technology), Bloom Projects (project management) and Cumming (cost management).
In early October 2015, investment management firm Invesco acquired the Westlake building for $67.4 million from Holland Partner Group.
The new office, located just blocks from the edge of Lake Union, will allow the company to expand its footprint beyond its Dexter Station office, according to Vijaye Raji, vice president of engineering at Facebook. “Similar to Dexter Station, Westlake offers some extra space for us to continue our growth here in Seattle and attract new talent from this incredible talent pool we have in the area,” he said.
The opening of the new office marks how the company has made significant strides since its foray into the Seattle market, according to Raji. “I’ve been at Facebook Seattle for about 7 years,” he said. “When I started we had about 15 engineers cramped into one of the floors in the Pike Place Market building.”
Facebook’s employees in Seattle work in engineering, product marketing, product management, design and research, among other fields, and the new office will accommodate teams working on a variety of projects from infrastructure and machine learning to products like Messenger, Marketplace and Games. “We’re also investing in some future-looking technologies. We’re doing augmented and virtual reality here in Seattle, as well, and we’re looking forward to those technologies coming to bear,” Raji said, adding that Facebook is currently working on more than 100 different projects in Seattle.
Programmatically, the new building features a combination of day offices, conference rooms, training rooms, a cafe and a bike cage with 96 bike parking stalls, as well as 4 electric vehicle stalls. Additionally, the building features 9 art installations done by local artists, which worked on them through the company’s artist in residence program.
Externally, the company partnered with the city of Seattle to collaborate with the Technology Matching Fund, which helps support community efforts to partner with local technology companies. Earlier this year, the company also announced a collaboration with the University of Washington to work with its academic departments that are focused around augmented reality.
However, according to Rebecca Lovell, acting director of the office of economic development with the city of Seattle, the tech company’s impact on the local community is more far-reaching than the projects and products it has under development. “Facebook’s commitment to community extends beyond supporting local artists and technology events. Facebook is helping us to build a talent pipeline, providing access to technology and housing and partnering with amazing organizations like the Tech Access Foundation and Plymouth Housing Group,” she said. “The company is part of the city’s cultural fabric and helps fuel the innovation engine in Seattle.”
The opening of the new 150,000 square foot Westlake office is only the latest statement by the company that is committed to continuing its growth and expanding its footprint in Seattle. In December 2016, the company signed a lease with Vulcan Real Estate for the 384,000 square foot Arbor Blocks campus in the heart of South Lake Union. The development—available in 2018, according to the project’s web site—will consist of two 6-story mid-rise office buildings and 4,100 square feet of street-level retail along 8th Avenue North between Thomas and Harrison Streets.
Google is also making moves to expand its presence in South Lake Union, with plans to occupy The Lakefront Blocks, a three-block project located at 630 Boren Avenue North that will provide approximately 638,000 square feet of office space, 150 apartment units, and 10,000 square feet of retail. Construction on The Lakefront Blocks, which is also being developed by Vulcan, is expected to be complete in 2019.
Further afield in the Puget Sound region, Facebook has also been expanding its presence on the Eastside in Redmond—home to Microsoft—in recent months. In January 2018, the company acquired two high tech/flex buildings totaling just over 72,000 square feet for $20 million from Redmond-based Crane Aerospace Inc. Facebook has amassed nearly 700,000 square feet of office space across a number of properties around Redmond’s Willows Road, according to sources with direct knowledge of the company’s activities in the region.
And the opening of the new office building on the edge of Lake Union shows that the company has no plans of slowing down its presence in Seattle in the near future, according to Suren Verma, director of software engineering at Facebook. “Two years ago, the Seattle engineering office was already on its way to becoming one of the largest Facebook offices. Today, it is the largest engineering office outside of the Menlo Park headquarters. With this expansion, we now have the capacity to grow our trajectory,” he said.