In the 1990s, Jeff Bezos rented a 1,500-square-foot house in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue and started building the company that would become Amazon.
Now, the same suburb is where Amazon is building out an office presence big enough to rival the company's so-called HQ2 corporate campus development. Internal city emails reviewed by Business Insider suggest Vulcan Real Estate – the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's development company – is part of the plan.
In an email sent over the summer, City of Bellevue Department of Development Services employees said that Vulcan is considering building a tower for Amazon at the current site of a Mexican restaurant called Ooba Tooba — referring to 555 108th Ave. NE, where Vulcan is planning a 42-story, 600-foot-tall building.
The tower is planned to have 1 million square feet of office space, according to marketing materials obtained by Business Insider. That's enough for more than 6,600 employees, as calculated using the industry-standard metric of 150 square feet per employee.
"We discuss our proposed projects with many prospective tenants," Vulcan Real Estate Investment Strategy Director Lori Mason Curran told Business Insider, adding that the company is still marketing the tower and no leases have been signed. Vulcan has applied for building permits for the site, but Amazon is not named in the documents.
Amazon has long been the expected tenant for the tower at 555 108th and another Vulcan development in Bellevue called Bellevue Plaza. The city of Bellevue's former economic development director last year in an internal city email said Vulcan was moving forward with plans for the Bellevue developments due to "strong interest from a large tenant." Given this newly-uncovered email from city employees, it appears that this "large tenant" is indeed Amazon.
Amazon is expected to be the tenant for both projects, according to sources in the commercial real estate industry who are not directly involved in the deal. However, until leases are signed and announcements are made, it's possible that another tenant could swoop in and take the space instead.
Meanwhile, Amazon has committed to at least an additional 1 million square feet of leases for office space across from the Bellevue tower, including the building Expedia is vacating as it moves its headquarters to Seattle.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
Amazon and Vulcan are close
Amazon and Vulcan have had a close relationship since at least 2007, when Amazon announced it would move its headquarters across town to Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. The company's headquarters, including the Day One tower, now span across the South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods.
Vulcan built much of Amazon's sprawling headquarters in the area, helping to transform what was an industrial district into a technology industry hotspot. (It didn't design Amazon's trademark Spheres in Seattle, though — that honor belongs to firm NBBJ).
Amazon has at least 45,000 employees within Seattle limits now, even as major Silicon Valley technology companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple have moved in.
Indeed, Vulcan is currently developing a massive campus for Google in South Lake Union — right on Amazon's doorstep — and recently completed a two-building campus for Facebook. Apple also recently inked a lease for a 630,000-square-foot building in the neighborhood.
Amazon is growing quickly in Bellevue
Today, much of Amazon's expansion in the Seattle area is happening in Bellevue.
While Amazon announced northern Virginia as the company's second headquarters after a national pageant, Amazon appears to be gobbling up enough space in Bellevue to rival that so-called HQ2 development.
Amazon has leased towers with a combined nearly 2 million square feet of office space in Bellevue.
Amazon earlier this year bought a 3.5-acre development site, practically across the street from the planned Vulcan tower. This summer, too, it filed a preapplication to build a 600-foot-tall tower there with at least 885,000-square-feet of office space. The preapplication also listed a potential second tower at the site called "Phase Two."
Amazon's website on Tuesday listed 545 open jobs in Bellevue. Many of the jobs in Bellevue are for Project Kuiper, Amazon's effort to launch low-orbit satellites to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband internet.
Other large technology companies have also set up offices in Seattle suburbs east of Lake Washington. Facebook's virtual reality businesses, including Facebook Reality Labs and its Oculus subsidiary, have a significant prescence in Redmond — where Microsoft makes its headquarters. Google has a massive campus nearby in Kirkland.