Earlier this week, Amazon.com proposed its three-block high-rise office complex in Seattle’s Denny Triangle. If approved, the project could take up to eight years to complete. The preliminary design of the complex comprises 3.3 million square feet, potentially making it the biggest development downtown Seattle has ever seen.
So how did Amazon evolve from online bookseller to what some experts consider “the best strategic player in tech”? Venkatesh Rao, contributor to Forbes, pins the company’s slow but sure rise in the dismantling of the bookselling industry in 1994 and its strategic decision to diversify. Amazon has since become the world’s biggest online retailer of a gamut of products — new and used books, digital software and information, toys, food, electronics, apparel, and more. Headquartered in Seattle, the company hosts customized websites for the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, India, and China.
Already, Amazon’s presence in Seattle is felt. The South Lake Union neighborhood has gotten a serious makeover. The New York Times reported that at the end of 2011, Amazon employed 56,000 people nationwide, up 67% from 2010. The growth has helped drive down office vacancy. In the fourth quarter of 2011, the rate dropped to 12.4 percent from 13.6 percent at the close of 2010, according to Kidder Matthews, a commercial brokerage in Seattle. The firm expects that rate to fall into the single digits by the close of this year. Residential housing has also gotten a boost. When new condo listings appear in the South Lake Union market, they tend not to sit for long. At this rate, Amazon’s projected growth will continue to up the demand for housing, amenities, and other retail businesses.