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[SEATTLE] Microsoft Corp is considering a multibillion-dollar revamp of its headquarters campus in suburban Seattle, seeking to foster more collaboration among employees and attract young engineers, according to people with knowledge of the plans.
The software giant has hired architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP as part of the effort at its Redmond, Washington, offices, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plans aren't public. Skidmore Owings designed Dubai's Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, and is helping Microsoft with a makeover of its much smaller campus in Mountain View, California.
Microsoft hasn't yet decided whether to move forward with the Redmond overhaul, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
"We continually work on Microsoft campus plans to anticipate future needs," the company said in a statement. A representative at Skidmore Owings's San Francisco office didn't return calls and e-mails for comment.
The potential updates would be aimed at shifting away from private offices toward the more open-plan work spaces that are favored by today's technology companies, said the people. Microsoft has been in Redmond since shortly before going public in 1986, a time when suburban campuses were in vogue. It now occupies about 80 buildings on roughly 500 acres (202 hectares).
The company owns the majority of the campus, which is about 13 miles (21 kilometers) east of downtown Seattle. It has already renovated some of the buildings to add open work space in place of private offices.
A broader makeover would include new construction and redevelopment of existing buildings, according to the people with knowledge of the matter. It could add amenities such as restaurants, retail spaces and public artwork, in addition to apartments to house visiting employees and interns, they said.
Many technology companies have chosen to buy, develop or lease office space in or near city centers to attract millennial workers who favor a more urban lifestyle. Microsoft wants to make the most of its suburban setting, by leveraging more of its outdoor areas, said the people with knowledge of the matter.
"Employees' tastes have changed," said Matt Griffin, managing partner of Seattle-based commercial developer Pine Street Group LLC. "Thirty years ago, they wanted to be on a college campus. If Microsoft thinks they're losing employees, they might try to make it more of an urban campus."
The Redmond campus is split into west and east sides by the State Route 520 freeway. Microsoft has agreed to help pay for a new pedestrian and bicycle path over the freeway. The plans now under consideration could entail a larger lid in the form of a park or buildings, said the people.
There also is a new light-rail station under development at a transit center on campus, in the Overlake neighborhood of Redmond. Construction is scheduled to begin next year, with an opening scheduled for 2023. The new station would be known as the Redmond Technology Center Station and include more parking spaces and covered facilities for bikes.