April 21, 2009 in Business

Microsoft’s new West Campus serves thousands of employees

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photos photo

Microsoft employee Katy Flaherty works on a laptop computer as she has her hair done by Christine Golson at the Commons, a mini-mall at Microsoft’s new West Campus development in Redmond, Wash. Associated Press photos
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REDMOND, Wash. – Workers in the entertainment and devices division of Microsoft Corp. no longer have to leave their corporate home for entertainment. Or shopping, banking, massage or a meeting with as many as 1,400 people.

As part of the company’s West Campus development in this suburb east of Seattle, Microsoft opened the Commons on Monday with 14 shops and restaurants, as well as a post office, credit union, bicycle repair shop, outdoor soccer field and conference center.

It’s open to anyone with a Microsoft badge, from employees to contract workers such as shuttle drivers and gardeners, and their guests. A pub in the complex will serve alcohol after 3 p.m. and by group reservation. There’s also a company store.

The West Campus is across State Route 520 from Microsoft’s main campus, which includes the Windows and Office groups, corporate headquarters and the bulk of Microsoft’s Redmond employees. Next year, the company plans to complete an overpass across the freeway to speed connections between the two complexes.

The main campus, which also has food courts and sports fields, grew piecemeal after Microsoft moved to Redmond in 1986. In contrast, the West Campus is a planned development.

One of the four main buildings in the 1.4 million-square-foot newer development is occupied, a second is opening this month and the other two are to be occupied by July. At full occupancy, West Campus is expected to have about 4,500 workers.

About 50,000 people are on Microsoft’s Redmond campuses each day, “so when you’re looking at that size of congregation of people, you start thinking about the things they need in their daily lives,” Microsoft real estate manager Chris Owens told the Seattle Times.

“The Commons … has a lot of features to help people get things done, whether that’s banking or eating or shopping or taking care of their cell phone connectivity, getting exercise, connecting with people socially, without having to get off campus,” Owens said.

The closest workers to the Commons will be those in the entertainment and devices division, which developed the video game player Xbox and music player Zune.

“It’s really nice. It has a futuristic vibe,” said Hrvoje Benko, an interactive touch technology researcher. “It’s a little mall-like.”

Taking advantage of free ice cream on a “soft” opening day last week, Benko said he might come to the Commons for lunch a few days a week but was most excited about the soccer field, saying the ones across the freeway on the main campus are often booked.

The Mixer includes an imitation version of the Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle, complete with a miniature version of the market’s signature red neon clock. The conference center is on the second floor.

The Submixer, across a patio surrounding a fountain, contains a spa offering trims and facials, a Watson Kennedy gourmet food and home furnishings shop and an art gallery featuring works produced by Microsoft employees.

The Spitfire pub is almost ready to open.

Microsoft announced 5,000 job cuts and scrapped some real-estate expansion plans in January, but West Campus was not affected, Owens said.

“We made a decision to do this years ago,” he said. “It’s serving such a large population, it’s not that much of a set of frills to the campus. It’s going to be serving 10,000 to 15,000 people a week.”

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