All aboard the Meta Express?
The parent company of Facebook and Oculus has renewed and expanded its office leases in Seattle’s Stadium District in what real estate experts describe as a sign of companies making plans around the future regional light rail connection between Seattle and the Eastside cities of Bellevue and Redmond.
Meta’s continued expansion comes amid a hiring surge in Seattle and elsewhere for its Metaverse initiatives. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday morning that more than 40 former members of the Microsoft HoloLens team have joined Meta in the past year, judging solely from changes in LinkedIn profiles.
A spokesperson for Meta confirmed that the company recently inked new deals totaling about 100,000 square feet at the Home Plate office complex and Stadium Innovation Center southwest of T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
The leases extend the presence that Oculus first established south of downtown Seattle in 2015. While the virtual reality division will continue to have a presence there, the company is still determining which Meta teams will be based in the newly expanded offices, the spokesperson said in response to GeekWire’s inquiry.
Meta has more than 3 million square feet of space in the Seattle region, including offices north of downtown Seattle and in Redmond. The company recently leased its fifth building in Bellevue’s Spring District, bringing its total commitment in the new development to more than 1.8 million square feet.
Recent leasing activity shows that tech giants including Meta and Amazon continue to see a future in physical office space even as the latest COVID-19 variant keeps many workers away from the office.
Amazon, which is already establishing a major presence in Bellevue, is expanding in Redmond, as well. Recent permit filings connect Amazon to a new lease in the Redmond Hilltop office campus, in southeast Redmond.
While many factors play into these decisions, the leasing pattern by Meta shows the potential for employees to leverage regional light rail to quickly go from one office to another, or to commute more seamlessly across the region. This could eventually reduce the need for companies to operate their own shuttle systems.
“It’s going to be a game-changer not only for getting people around the Eastside internally but getting people more easily into downtown Seattle,” said Eric Lonergan, executive managing director and co-market leader in the Savills Seattle office. “It’s going to help all the business centers around the region connect.”
The East Link Extension of Sound Transit Link Light Rail is slated to open in phases in 2023 and 2024, with stops including downtown Bellevue and the Spring District, connecting to downtown Seattle.