When Apptio launched in 2007, early workers debated whether or not the enterprise software program startup ought to set up its headquarters in Seattle or close by Bellevue.


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Although the 5 co-founders ultimately settled on Bellevue, the situation dialogue continued on and off for years. However that discuss ended way back.

“There isn’t any debate now,” stated Apptio CEO Sunny Gupta, who lauded Bellevue’s downtown and livability. Plus, the tech exec delivers his employees a particular perk seldom seen in Seattle: “I provide free parking to my workers,” he stated with fun. “That is a tremendous place.”

Tech firms are driving an unprecedented financial enlargement in Bellevue, the 63-year-old metropolis positioned simply 12 miles east of downtown Seattle and simply west of Microsoft’s sprawling campus in Redmond.

And what’s driving the increase? Tech execs say it’s Bellevue’s low crime price, business-friendly politics, tent-free sidewalks, and vibrant downtown. 

Maybe the perfect sign of Bellevue’s tech surge is Amazon, which humbly began in a small Bellevue home 27 years in the past. It now plans to make use of 25,000 individuals on this as soon as sleepy suburb on the japanese shores of Lake Washington. That’s the identical quantity it expects to rent in Northern Virginia, or “Amazon HQ2,” because it appears past its Seattle headquarters amid an more and more tense relationship with Seattle’s political leaders and insurance policies.

Apptio’s Gupta is firmly rooted within the metropolis he selected for his firm greater than a decade in the past.

“We received’t ever take into account transferring our headquarters to Seattle,” he stated. “Why would you?”

Bellevue Downtown Park stretches across 20 acres. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

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Bellevue Downtown Park stretches throughout 20 acres. (GeekWire Picture / Kevin Lisota)

Bellevue’s tech trade is buoyed by longtime native stalwarts corresponding to T-Cellular and Smartsheet, in addition to fast-growing startups together with OfferUp and Icertis. 

Silicon Valley tech giants like Salesforce and eBay have found Bellevue, and Fb paid $367 million final 12 months for a 6-acre, 400,000 square-foot complicated within the new Spring District growth that already contains the College of Washington’s International Innovation Change. Even TikTok dad or mum ByteDance not too long ago planted its flag within the metropolis. 

In the course of the previous decade, Bellevue has grown 22%; the median earnings has jumped 27% to $162,434; and property values have soared. Census knowledge exhibits that town is more and more married, home-owning and educated — historically an ideal recipe for white-collar hiring.

There may be additionally loads of actual property house underneath building, together with six workplace initiatives totaling greater than 5 million sq. ft that can “rework the Bellevue skyline,” in keeping with a current report from Broderick Group. 

“An undercurrent of optimism is reverberating all through the actual property neighborhood because the Eastside is within the midst of an unlimited transformation,” the report famous. 

Town named after the French time period for “stunning view” seems prepared for its closeup on the nationwide stage. And it’s doing a lot of this at Seattle’s expense. 

Ready with open arms

Lynne Robinson tries out virtual reality in 2016. (GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)

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Lynne Robinson tries out digital actuality in 2016. (GeekWire File Picture / Nat Levy)

Lynne Robinson, a Bellevue councilmember since 2014 who was elected mayor final 12 months, courts the tech trade at each flip. The bodily therapist and small enterprise proprietor organizes and attends tech and networking occasions, and makes certain startups have the help they want. 

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson. (allinforlynne.com)

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Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson. (allinforlynne.com)

At an occasion hosted by the Washington Expertise Trade Affiliation earlier this month, Robinson famous that Bellevue metropolis leaders have lengthy created “a welcoming surroundings the place individuals really feel at residence and really feel they will get the help they should develop their firms.”

Town additionally goes the additional mile to woo companies, which runs in sharp distinction to what many describe as an anti-business political local weather in Seattle.

To place that distinction into perspective, Robinson satisfied town shortly after becoming a member of the Bellevue council to transform two outdated, empty workplace buildings into inexpensive short-term workplace house, offering small companies with a horny place to develop.  

Icertis CEO Samir Bodas has been rising his enterprise software program startup in Bellevue for greater than a decade, and he can’t say sufficient in regards to the help he’s obtained. 

“Bellevue has been great to us,” he stated. And whereas most of the firm’s engineers, notably the youthful ones, most popular to dwell in Seattle, that has modified because the pandemic.

“The calculus shifted,” he stated. 

One other issue serving to enhance Bellevue as a tech hub is Sound Transit’s mild rail hyperlink from Seattle deliberate for opening in 2023. It can run 14 miles from downtown Seattle to the Overlake space in Redmond, Wash., with 10 Eastside stations together with Mercer Island, South Bellevue, downtown Bellevue, BelRed and Overlake. 

Robinson stated she has a easy philosophy that can information her decision-making within the months and years forward as Bellevue begins to really feel the advantages and the stress of the anticipated development. 

“The underside line is you wish to be a spot the place individuals wish to be,” she stated. 

Right here comes Amazon

Amazon’s real estate footprint in Bellevue is growing quickly. (Broderick Group Image)

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Amazon’s actual property footprint in Bellevue is rising rapidly. (Broderick Group Picture)

Maybe nobody needs to be in Bellevue as a lot as Amazon. The tech large already employs greater than 75,000 workers within the Seattle area, and its needs to stretch additional past its longtime residence in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood are nicely documented. 

Amazon, concerned in an ongoing contentious spat with the Seattle Metropolis Council, now has its eyes squarely on Bellevue. In 2019, after a previous tax battle with Seattle politicians, the corporate introduced plans to maneuver its worldwide operations division — accountable for its large success heart and logistics footprint — to Bellevue.

Final 12 months, Amazon nabbed two million sq. ft of workplace house in downtown Bellevue with leases at new properties being developed by Vulcan: 555 Tower and West Foremost.

Amazon can also be constructing two towers at 600 Bellevue, and introduced in early March that it leased a 600,000-square-foot workplace constructing known as The Artise.

The corporate even contributed $7.5 million to assist full a motorbike and strolling path in Bellevue. 

Longtime Bellevue councilmember Conrad Lee stated he doesn’t perceive the Seattle Metropolis Council’s obvious indifference, if not hostility to Amazon and different tech employers. “I feel they’re silly,” he stated. “They’re driving away jobs. They’re hurting the economic system.”

Freeman agrees. He stated the expansion that Bellevue expects from the corporate is nothing in need of transformative.

However metropolis leaders have additionally carefully watched Seattle’s development, at occasions with alarm. “There are going to be challenges,” Lee stated. “Housing prices, extra site visitors, high quality of life. Once you get extra individuals, you’re going to face extra conditions.”

Construction is underway at 555 Tower, one of several new buildings Amazon plans to occupy in Bellevue. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

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Building is underway at 555 Tower, certainly one of a number of new buildings Amazon plans to occupy in Bellevue. (GeekWire Picture / Kevin Lisota)

Bodas, who previous to co-founding Icertis labored in varied administration roles at Microsoft, stated he picked Bellevue for his firm’s headquarters partially because of decrease workplace lease in comparison with Seattle. 

However now, Class A workplace house in Bellevue’s central enterprise district is pricier — at $57.57 per sq. foot — and in greater demand than related buildings in Seattle, in keeping with an evaluation by the Seattle actual property firm Savills. House lease costs are up 10% year-over-year, and median housing costs are up 18.2%.

All of this, in a method, factors to the considerations of residents and employers that Seattle points are going to observe alongside as Bellevue pulls in additional migrating enterprise and extra startups. 

Todd Dunlap, CEO of OfferUp, stated there may be reliable concern {that a} fast-growing Bellevue might see a rising variety of the identical points — overpriced housing, crime, site visitors — that Seattle has endured within the wake of the current tech increase.

However he thinks Bellevue’s focus is totally different than its bigger, older sibling to the West. Dunlap stated town has frightened about each enterprise local weather and livability since its incorporation within the early Fifties and the next decades-long enterprise buildout.

“I work and dwell in Bellevue,” stated Dunlap. “I feel (town council) is being very intentional right here in regards to the potential issues.” He stated you’ll be able to see proof of that intent within the council agenda with common gadgets on inexpensive housing, transit and growth.

Laying the muse

A 737 final assembly line at Boeing’s Renton, Wash. plant. (Boeing Photo)

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A 737 last meeting line at Boeing’s Renton, Wash. plant. (Boeing Picture)

Bellevue’s transition from strawberry farms to Search Engine Optimization could be tied again in some methods to 2 Seattle-area giants: Boeing and Microsoft. 

In the course of the Nineteen Sixties, town grew by practically 50,000 individuals, an astonishing 10-year climb of 328%. The first driver was Boeing, hitting the height of its post-war increase.

That introduced engineering expertise and led to quite a few high-tech suppliers within the area. Many practical-minded engineers settled in Bellevue, which geographically triangulated them between Boeing’s Seattle, Renton and Everett crops.

“It was a good time to get right here,” stated Lee, now 82 and serving his twenty eighth 12 months on Bellevue’s council. “So many engineers arrived. And that set the desk for what we’re seeing now.” 

Margaret O’Mara, tech trade historian, College of Washington professor and creator of “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America,” in contrast Boeing’s impact on the world to Lockheed’s spark in Silicon Valley within the Nineteen Sixties.

“These old-school defense-driven firms attract all of those engineers,” she stated. “And people engineers have kids. (Apple co-founder) Steve Wozniak’s dad was a Lockheed engineer.”

Throughout this time Bellevue additionally noticed an inadvertent social windfall of types, historians say: Pressured busing in Seattle.

The desegregation effort, pushed by the federal authorities and carried out by the Seattle Faculty District, prompted what is named white flight, an exodus of white center class households from city areas to the suburbs. 

Native historian Feliks Banel stated it’s not possible to say exactly how many individuals moved from Seattle to the Eastside, however “it undoubtedly had an impact.”

O’Mara agreed. “Earnings degree buys mobility,” she stated. And a large portion of the white center class in Seattle packed up and moved to the Eastside, bringing alongside their wealth, school levels and sometimes conservative, business-friendly politics.

Even with Boeing’s development slowing by the Nineteen Seventies, a number of the laid-off engineers who didn’t wish to depart the world based their very own tech firms. Some went again to the College of Washington for superior levels. 

Microsoft elevates Bellevue

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer opens the company’s Bellevue Square store in November 2011. (Microsoft Photo)

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Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer opens the corporate’s Bellevue Sq. retailer in November 2011. (Microsoft Picture)

Then there was a little-noticed fledging pc firm that in 1979 relocated from Albuquerque, N.M. into the Outdated Financial institution Constructing in downtown Bellevue.

The younger founders of that firm, Invoice Gates and Paul Allen, each had been born in Seattle and picked the world — already wealthy in pc expertise — to develop their firm. And whereas a lot of the firm’s vital development occurred at its eventual residence within the close by suburb of Redmond, hundreds of its workers moved into Bellevue and alongside the Eastside hall. Microsoft nonetheless has a 26-story workplace tower in downtown Bellevue. 

“The rise of Microsoft was additionally the rise of Bellevue and the Eastside,” Lee stated. “That introduced super motion right here.”

Bellevue, not like Seattle, had seemingly limitless house for workplace parks, a main habitat for tech firms. This was why when Microsoft grew, it stayed within the suburbs east of Seattle, stated O’Mara. “I feel it’s telling that for Microsoft, Seattle was actually by no means within the combine.” 

Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman Jr. stated when Boeing engineers arrived and once more when the wave of Microsoft households settled in, metropolis leaders set about first engaged on the general public colleges.

“We stated, let’s create the perfect faculty system within the Northwest,” stated Freeman Jr., whose household was key to Bellevue’s development over the previous century, together with constructing bridges that related town to Seattle and the event of the Bellevue Sq. purchasing heart. 

The Bellevue Faculty District is now ranked No. 2 amongst Washington state districts, in keeping with Area of interest. 

Bellevue swelled as Microsoft grew, from 73,000 residents in 1980 to 109,000 individuals by 2000. Residents’ median earnings throughout that point rose from roughly $70,000 to $88,000. 

This led to a dramatic shift within the forms of employment provided in Bellevue. Census knowledge throughout the identical interval exhibits a fast enlargement or tech sector jobs. Initially, this additionally turned a boon to Seattle — though not native commuters — as Eastside tech expertise poured into Seattle-based firms, too. 

However as Seattle grew by the 2000s, its issues grew together with it.

When Amazon started increasing in South Lake Union, it introduced unprecedented wealth and inhabitants development to Seattle and set off a “prosperity bomb,” exacerbating town’s poverty issues. New growth cleared away a budget short-term leases and modest walk-up flats in Belltown, downtown and Capitol Hill. 

In order Amazon more and more turned the goal for housing and fairness activists, and because the firm took its enlargement ambitions on a nationwide search, one native city started making a powerful pitch for the corporate to not look throughout the nation and as an alternative look throughout Lake Washington.

Studying from Seattle

Andy Jassy, new Amazon CEO, speaks at the 2021 GeekWire Summit earlier this month. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

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Andy Jassy, new Amazon CEO, speaks on the 2021 GeekWire Summit earlier this month. (GeekWire Picture / Dan DeLong)

After Amazon stated final 12 months it will convey extra jobs to Bellevue and provides $1 million to the Metropolis of Bellevue’s Human Providers Fund, Robinson known as the corporate’s funding “a serious win for our neighborhood and area.”

That’s a distinction to the connection between Amazon and Seattle Metropolis Corridor.

“The City Council has develop into much less enamored with enterprise or with Amazon,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy stated on the GeekWire Summit this month. “It’s simply been rougher.”

The Seattle vs. Amazon challenge got here to a head 4 years in the past with the council-approved head tax which whereas not restricted to Amazon, particularly focused the biggest native firms with a per-employee tax in an effort to assist town increase tens of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to pay for the consequences of explosive development. 

Amazon’s subsequent forays into metropolis politics and elections, together with spending greater than $1 million on an effort to elect new metropolis councilmembers, have been met with stiff opposition. Two years later, town revisited the pinnacle tax with a extra modest tax on annual native salaries above $150,000.

Jassy stated Bellevue is now “the place most of our development will find yourself being” within the Seattle area. 

“Downtown might be an altogether totally different place as soon as Amazon begins to occupy their new towers,” Broderick Group stated in its report, noting the multiplier impact on providers, hospitality companies, and multi-family investments wanted to accommodate hundreds of Amazon workers.

Dunlap, OfferUp’s CEO, stated Bellevue’s downtown is best ready for brand new enterprise in comparison with Seattle. OfferUp now has 400 workers in Bellevue. He stated the downtown provides extra open house and facilities than downtown Seattle.

And much like Apptio’s Gupta, he can provide employees free parking. It’s not a small perk, he stated, because the Columbia Tower parking in downtown Seattle is $36 each day.

“Microsoft has been right here without end, so this metropolis is aware of methods to deal with development,”  he stated. “And (metropolis leaders) have checked out Seattle for instance.”

Editor’s word: That is the primary of a four-part sequence exploring Bellevue’s development as a tech and innovation hub. The sequence is underwritten by MN Customized Houses.

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