Microsoft reveals plans for massive new expansion of its flagship campus

As if having meetings in treehouses wasn’t enough, Microsoft has announced  an ambitious new renovation of its flagship Redmond campus (home to 47,000 employees) on its company blog. It’s the biggest redevelopment project in the company’s history, and it will take five to seven years to complete.

“We have a new generation of employees,” Brad Smith of Microsoft said at the annual shareholders meeting. “So it’s only fitting — in fact, it’s essential — that this new generation of employees have this new generation of work space where they too can do their best work.”

Those four buildings will be coming down, along with eight others, to make space for 18 new office buildings with room for an additional 8,000 workers.Originally a chicken ranch, the site was later purchased for a shopping mall project that never materialized, and then acquired by Microsoft in the 1980s. Named “88 Acres,” the headquarters, with four two-story iconic “X-wing” buildings surrounding “Lake Bill,” opened in 1986, a few weeks before the company went public and a year after releasing the first Windows OS.

Microsoft Redmond Campus
Google Earth
Google Earth

In an interview with Geek Wire, Smith said, “It’s going to be a working environment that we believe is going to foster creativity and teamwork and informality and the ability of people to connect with and learn from each other and connect with our customers.”

The new design will be very pedestrian- and bike-friendly, with a walkway over the nearby freeway and parking relocated underground. New soccer and cricket fields will be added, and a central plaza will allow 8,000 to 12,000 people to gather outdoors for presentations, meetings, or even musical performances.

Also central to Microsoft’s plans is the availability of public transportation, with the planned extension of light rail from Seattle to Redmond, cutting the commute time to 30 minutes. Microsoft has a $33.3 million funding agreement with Sound Transit for the construction of the light rail station and the new pedestrian bridge.

This announcement comes on the heels of Apple’s new “spaceship” headquarters that recently opened in Cupertino and a new campus for Google. Expedia, another tech giant headquartered in Seattle, is planning an eye-catching new headquarters on the Seattle waterfront. The new development is embracing Microsoft’s rural roots, with additional green space and a focus on sustainability.

“I think one would be hard-pressed to find any company anywhere in the world that can look to an asset that can match this,” Smith said of the Redmond campus. “We think it’s one of the crown jewels for Microsoft; we think it’s one of the crown jewels for Puget Sound.”

“Clearly, this is no longer a chicken farm,” he added.