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Amazon abandons plans for Rainier Tower office space

The long-rumored decision follows questions about Amazon’s future in Seattle

Alyssa Nassner

Back in 2017, Amazon announced it would be leasing all the office space in the new Rainier Square tower, set to be Seattle’s second-tallest skyscraper when complete. The 722,000 square feet would have had room for at least 3,500 employees. Wednesday, Amazon confirmed it wouldn’t be moving into the building after all after Geekwire obtained a marketing flyer for the space—confirming months of rumors surrounding the property.

Amazon had already threatened to pull out of the building last year as the city closed in on passing the Employee Hours Tax—better-known as the “head tax”—designed to tax giant businesses like Amazon to raise money for affordable housing and homelessness programs. The company, in addition to halting a major construction process just north of downtown, threatened to back out of the Rainier Tower lease.

Ultimately, the City Council would pass a watered-down version of the tax before repealing the tax altogether. For a second, it looked like Amazon was all set to stay in Rainier Tower, but earlier this year rumors started coming out that it’d be subleasing that space after all.

The decision also comes soon after Amazon scrapped plans for half of a second headquarters in New York City—and a statement that implied it would not be expanding its Seattle presence after it finishes its current construction, something the company would later walk back.

“We are currently building 2 million square feet of office space in our South Lake Union campus in Seattle,” said Amazon spokesperson in a statement. “We are always evaluating our space requirements and intend to sublease [Rainier] Square based on current plans. We have more than 9,000 open roles in Seattle and will continue to evaluate future growth.”

When that 2 million square feet is done, its Seattle campus will total 14 million square feet. More than 45,000 Seattleites are employed at Amazon, and an August 2017 Seattle Times report found that Amazon takes up 19 percent of all prime office space in the entire city.

The Rainier Square building, which is currently underis currently under construction, features a unique swoop shape which some call similar to a champagne flute, shoe, or ice cream scoop. It’s a nod to the iconic Minoru Yamasaki-designed Rainier Tower next door, which was built in 1977 and features a tapered base. It’s part of a Wright Runstad redevelopment of the entire block, save the original tower.

The 58-story tower, which will also include retail and residences, could open as soon as next year.