Looking at the microsoft campus from the redmond technology station
Buildings 7 and 8 of the campus refresh with the Redmond Technology Station Pedestrian Bridge overhead. A wide road feeds the 6,500 parking stalls under the campus. (The Urbanist)

East Link light rail is inaugurating service today, and we’re continuing our 2 Line transit-oriented development series with a looked at Redmond Technology Station.

Development at East Link’s initial northeastern terminus is dominated by the Microsoft Campus “Refresh,” as the local tech giant surrounds the new station. Microsoft has trumpeted its eco-friendly triumph around the refresh with features such as an electric food hall, an impressive geothermal system, and a new pedestrian bridge over SR 520. However, outside of Microsoft’s campus, too much of the area around Redmond Technology Station is set to remain low-density sprawl, well short of its potential.

Affecting 72 acres of the sprawling 500-acre corporate campus, the Microsoft Campus Refresh will total 17 four- or five-story buildings. The modernization will have three million square feet of mostly office space, with retail making up the rest. The 17 buildings have been designated into four villages, which are at various stages of construction. 

  • Graphic of the four villages that Microsoft has planned for the modernization.
  • A physical map mounted at the new Microsoft campus.

In order of completeness, Whatcom Village’s four office buildings in the north of the refresh appear to have either completely opened or mostly opened with some interior build out to be done. On the western side of the refresh, Washington Village’s five office buildings have also had all of its buildings either opened or in need of interior finishes. The singular “Jewel” building at the center of the refresh and Chelan Village’s two office buildings appear to be well under way in their construction. Lastly, Sammamish Village’s five buildings appear to have been delayed are are in early phases of construction.

A rendering shows Microsoft’s ultimate vision for the campus refresh for its headquarters. (Microsoft)

In late 2022, Geekwire reported a timeframe shift for nine of the 17 buildings in the redevelopment, as the company was reconsidering the design of interior spaces in an era of increased work from home. Reportedly, Microsoft’s goal continued to be completion of the redevelopment by 2025. Visiting the campus, only the Sammamish Village appears to have been substantially delayed. Given the timeline we’d expect to get these buildings done, 2025 may be optimistic for full refresh completion. 

A swath of land where little construction progress has been made.
Little completion on Sammamish Village (The Urbanist)

This campus will replace the original Microsoft buildings that totaled around 1.2 million square feet in office space. The new campus offers 2.5 miles of walking and bike trails, multi-purpose fields, and a cricket pitch. It will also be linked to the station with a bike and pedestrian bridge. Other green features that Microsoft is touting include 700 bike parking spaces, tree plantings/replanting, rainwater capture, and concrete reuse. 

Redmond Technology TOD falls behind peers

Despite brouhaha around the redevelopment’s greenness, the project’s proximity to the region’s biggest investment in public transit suggests more would have possible and advisable. The campus directly abuts a light rail line and a bus rapid transit (BRT) line and all that’s getting built is four and five-story office buildings. Even without high-rises, the Spring District project will construct more office space plus 900 residential units on half the land. 

This photo of the Microsoft campus shows the lower density development that has been built relative to other transit-oriented development.
The new Microsoft Campus and its mid-rise buildings (The Urbanist)

The 6,500-stall parking garage underneath the new campus in spite of the major transit investment on its doorstep and existing RapidRide service hardly speaks to world-class TOD. A 500-acre monoculture of office buildings does entail employees would have to commute in from afar. However, Microsoft is on par with its peers along the 2 Line; a parking ratio of 2.16 stalls per 1,000 square feet of office space is in line with current requirements throughout the corridor. 

One new residential development in the station area prevents Microsoft from making the station a purely office and retail landscape. The Avalon Redmond Apartments at 15602 NE 40th St represents a sliver of multifamily residential zoning next to the Microsoft campus. It was completed in 2024 and contains 214 residential units and 215 parking stalls in a five-story building. Perhaps, more mixed-use development in future campus planning could help Microsoft wean itself off of its perceived car needs.

The Avalon Redmond apartment building on a sunny day, photo taken from the Redmond Technology Station
The Avalon Redmond (The Urbanist)

The lack of highrise or housing growth cannot be blamed squarely on Microsoft; what has really set the Redmond Technology Station up for disappointment is the zoning. There could be truth in that, as the current zoning limits the development capacity of the site to a floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.62 that times 72 acres would give Microsoft about five million square feet of developable space to work with. Maybe this limited Microsoft. The land they’re developing has a height limit of 10 stories with the rest of the campus limited to five. However, upwards of 10 stories may not have been a worthwhile effort given construction regulations and cost efficacy.  

To be fair, the City of Redmond has been funneling much of its growth toward its downtown, which is tabbed to get light rail in 2025. That area has seen a transformation with a spate of mid-rise mixed-use development. Overlake has also been a focal point. However, certainly jurisdictions should be leaving housing capacity on the table when it comes to its zoning and land use regulations for areas near rapid transit.

As Redmond looks to update zoning in Overlake, there’ll be more opportunity to build up around the light rail station. Current reimagining of the “Overlake Business and Advanced Technology” (OBAT) and Overlake Urban Multi-Family zones that surround the Redmond Technology Station ratchet up the FAR and height limits multiple times over. OBAT zones could get a max height of 300 feet and have FAR waived if incentives are met.

Perhaps Microsoft could rethink the Sammamish Village phase of their campus refresh when these zoning changes are implemented next year. Mixed-use towers 300-feet tall could punctuate the office monoculture. Now that would be development worthy of a light rail station and the corporation’s green marketing.

East Link TOD Series: As Sound Transit prepares to launch the East Link Starter Line on April 27, The Urbanist is going station-by-station to look at transit-oriented development (TOD) via our “East Link TOD” series. Back in 2022, we warned that some East Link neighborhoods were squandering their TOD opportunities, but there are a few success stories, too. Check out the other articles in our series:

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The Urbanist staff occasionally teams up to cover breaking news or tackle large projects. See more about our team on the staff page.