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Amazon Gobbles Downtown Seattle, Builds Biospheres (bloomberg.com) 91

Amazon has grabbed more than 15% of Seattle's office space inventory, which a local book author is describing as "the Amazocalypse". And now Amazon is building three "gigantic spheres resembling melted-together Milk Duds in the shadow of their new 500-foot-tall office tower," according to Bloomberg: The 100-foot-tall orbs -- Amazon calls them Biospheres -- will host more than 300 plant species from around the world, creating what the company sees as the workplace of the future. Amazonians will be able to break from their daily labors to walk amid the greenery along suspension bridges and climb into meeting spaces resembling bird nests perched in mature trees... Many of the plants are endangered species, meaning that the spheres double as a conservation project.
Bloomberg talks about the desire of Amazon and other tech companies to stay -- and grow -- in the popular cities "where millennials prefer to live". While the owners of Seattle's Space Needle complain that all the new office towers are blocking views of their tourist attraction, the article also describes how Amazon leased the ground floors of its office buildings to "hand-picked bars, restaurants and coffee shops," transforming it from "a hodgepodge of car dealerships and second-hand stores."
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Amazon Gobbles Downtown Seattle, Builds Biospheres

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  • Balls (Score:5, Funny)

    by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @05:53PM (#52435521)

    I've always thought high rise structures should have balls.

    I applaud Amazon for choosing an unconventional number.

  • After the beast feeds, it clearly farts bubbles.
  • by Vinegar Joe ( 998110 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:03PM (#52435579)

    Demonstrators will have more glass to break and I'll bet biospheres burn really good. And when they get thirsty, they'll have a great time looting those "hand-picked" bars........

  • by DRJlaw ( 946416 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:04PM (#52435591)

    Meanwhile, the Space Needle's owners have complained that all the towers being thrown up by Amazon and developers hoping to house its workers are crowding out views of the aging tourist attraction.

    Did those owners pay the other property owners to surrender their air rights so that the Space Needle could have unobstructed views, or are they merely trying to seize a right to prevent others from building structures that are equally high? I.e., a real estate version of pulling the ladder up behind you.

    • by DaHat ( 247651 )

      Such requirements can also come from government, take the protected views in London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      It's been something called for in Seattle for years, but isn't official as yet.

    • The space needle has always been ugly. Time to tear it down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Locando ( 131600 )

      My guess would be that they assumed that Seattle would remain sprawly and low-rise, and that any outsiders who wanted to invest in the local economy by building taller buildings would cower in shame and abandon their plans when the population of the city passive-aggressively refused en masse to recognize said buildings as being reflective of the real Seattle, the gritty, honest, unpretentious city that we grew up in, not that you would know anything about that.

    • by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian DOT bixby AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday July 03, 2016 @05:41AM (#52437649)

      We got to the Space Needle for dinner for our anniversary every summer, and we're of the opinion that the South Lake Union building boom has dramatically improved the view. That used to be a run-down neighborhood of warehouses, abandoned buildings, and parking lots, now it's actually something interesting and attractive to look at. Yeah, the view of the Space Needle is obstructed from some places in that area, but since the only people there much of the time before the new buildings were hookers and crack dealers I don't see it as much of an issue.

    • by synaptic ( 4599 )

      Somebody has been watching too much Burlesque...

  • Interestingly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bluegutang ( 2814641 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @06:20PM (#52435641)

    thanks to investment in public transportation, Seattle actually has less traffic than it did a decade ago, despite its growth in employment and housing.

    According to the Seattle DOT Traffic Report (2015), Seattle added nearly 100,000 people in the decade from 2004-2014, while average daily car traffic in the city fell by some 60,000 trips over the same period. The travel demand created by population and job growth is being absorbed by the transit system

    source [seattlemet.com]

    • A typical afternoon in Seattle traffic would invite you to a reality check.

      Take a sleeping bag and some snacks.

      • by Nethead ( 1563 )

        That's why I'm making about $20k less than I could, if I went to Seattle or the East side. I live in Tulalip and commute to Everett, about 15 minutes, with a stop for coffee. I worked the dotcom boom and bust in downtown Seattle, it was hard enough back then to commute from Edmonds. I just couldn't do it anymore even with the Sounder train that sometimes runs.

        Having those extra 3 hours in my life, each day, make the reduced rate worth it.

      • Just be glad you don't live in Beijing [wikipedia.org] where you may need to bring food and water for 10 days.
    • Re:Interestingly... (Score:4, Informative)

      by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @07:38PM (#52435987)

      Seattle actually has less traffic than it did a decade ago, despite its growth in employment and housing.

      A funny thing happened between 2004 and 2014... The 2008 crash.

      The Seattle area is booming, it's true... But the Great Recession hit this area hard, and in 2014 the area was still recovering. I doubt 2016 statistics would tell the same story.

      I mostly take transit to and from work; but anecdotally I'd say Seattle freeway traffic is worse now than it's ever been. I can say for certain that northbound on I-5 used to be clear sailing as soon as you reached the convention center; but now, more often than not, it's stop and go from Mercer to 520 even at 10am.

      Downtown traffic may be marginally less bad than ten years ago, but that has more to do with Seattle's aggressive push to eliminate downtown parking than the availability of transit.

      But now that I can FINALLY take light rail to UW, it's a moot point in my case. Sounder train and light rail means my commute is no longer dependent on the roads!

      • Makes me glad I live in Indiana, part of flyover country, just south of Indianapolis where Google maps actually can direct you to less congested routes, and we have Gas Buddy. I forget what the gas prices I saw today were, but most of them were under $2 Goodwill Stores have their half-off first Saturday of the month deals and there are quite a few in reach. I pigged out on buying books. Bought 3 DVDs too. Scrooge, the best version of A Christmas Carol I've seen, the director's cut of Daredevil, and a Jackie
    • The quoted "source" is a guest column advocating a particular position; it is not a traffic report. In fact, it misrepresents what was behind the reduction in trips in the Seattle DOT traffic report. The author attributes the reduction to increases in use of alternate forms of transportation, but completely ignores an even bigger for reason for the reduction in the number of trips, the Great Recession, which hit in the middle of the reporting period.

      Since 2010, the number of trips has been increasing.

      H

      • Not only is it an opinion piece, it shares the common Seattle hubris of claiming leadership in an area where the city has long lagged. How long has Portland or San Francisco or Vancouver had rail transit, versus Seattle? And even getting THAT was a fight. "Finally catching up" would be a much more accurate statement.

        Don't get me wrong - I'm loving the light rail I can finally ride to UW. And I think the region (it's not just Seattle) is finally moving in the right direction. But self-righteous Truthiness ab

        • by Locando ( 131600 )

          I would add in a penchant for denying reality — can anyone in their right mind say that doing the commute across the I-90 bridge is in any way pleasant? And yet people seemed (when I was living there a year ago) to tolerate the way the traffic on it would clog up seemingly at random, or become predictably abysmal before a Seahawks game, and render the buses immobile as well. The bicycle infrastructure is mediocre, too. Is it just low expectations, or a refusal to believe that the Seattle mindset about

    • Tell that to my commute, which has gotten significantly slower over just the past year. Home in north Seattle -> work in Bellevue. More miserable by either bus or car, and the 520 bridge replacement is currently traffic neutral versus a year ago (sure there have been hiccups, but right now we're using the same number of lanes on the west end of the bridge).
    • Seattle traffic is utterly awful. The public transportation is quite nice (compared to other U.S. cities at least) but the traffic is abysmal and has been getting worse. The city has ranked in the top ten cities for worst traffic [usatoday.com] for a while now. The geography and city layout pretty much makes it impossible for the traffic not to suck.
    • thanks to investment in public transportation, Seattle actually has less traffic than it did a decade ago, despite its growth in employment and housing.

      According to the Seattle DOT Traffic Report (2015), Seattle added nearly 100,000 people in the decade from 2004-2014, while average daily car traffic in the city fell by some 60,000 trips over the same period. The travel demand created by population and job growth is being absorbed by the transit system

      source [seattlemet.com]

      Yea... not so much. Going from Belltown to the interstate which is maybe 1 or 1.5 miles downtown,depending on how you go, can routinely take 30+ minutes. That's just to get out of downtown. The other 10 miles of my north bound commute takes about 20 minutes most days.

  • ...host more than 300 plant species from around the world.

    Though it smacks of medieval royalty's penchant for importing the rarest of beasts from farthest flung points in the realm.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... will host more than 300 plant species from around the world ...

    So Amazon will have massive maintenance costs from such a unique building design plus the cost of tending endangered plants. What happens when Amazon wants to cut costs, downsize, or just 'return to core functions'? Will the municipal council take over the park-lands? Will Amazon demand corporate welfare or just gut/burn the park-lands?

    This is like the monorail craze of the '80s; How about some future-proofing?

  • What is the point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by superdude72 ( 322167 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @08:20PM (#52436149)

    Biosphere. God, what a metaphor! In other words, a self-contained inhabitable zone shielded from the harsh environment of--gasp--Seattle.

    The whole point of locating in a city is to be part of the city. Let your employees meet for lunch at a local restaurant that hasn't been hand-picked by Amazon's Director of Restaurant Planning. Use the transportation system that the locals use, improving it for everyone in the process. Go to a public park to chill out, rather than a private park reserved for Amazon employees.

    This kind of office park is all over Silicon Valley. To someone who's never worked in this environment, it sounds like a huge perk. But having worked in an environment like this, I'd rather just work in Seattle, not in a biosphere surrounded by Seattle.

  • Megacorps (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Saturday July 02, 2016 @08:52PM (#52436223) Homepage

    One one hand, revitalizing city centers is not necessarily a bad thing. On the other, this starts to smell a little of Shadowrun-style megacorporations (or of industrial-era company towns).

    Live and work your entire life within the protective confines of your employer. Go to the company school, work at the company office, live in company housing paid for with a company-bank supplied mortgage, dine at your choice of company restaurants, vacation at the company resort, get a company funeral...

  • The employee's will "walk amid the greenery", in other words they will be able to go outside without going outside.
  • Sold my home in June.

    I lived in Magnolia. In order to get to the Mountains (where I spend a lot of time now) I have to get to I-5. That means driving by Amazon and all the damn construction.

    Yes, we all say it. The City isn't what it used to be.

    I loved Seattle in the 80s and 90s.

    Now, I live in Bend, Oregon
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Amazonians will be able to break from their daily labors to walk amid the greenery along suspension bridges and climb into meeting spaces resembling bird nests perched in mature trees... When the chickens come home to roost...
  • by cmholm ( 69081 ) <cmholm@[ ]iholm.org ['mau' in gap]> on Sunday July 03, 2016 @02:05AM (#52437171) Homepage Journal
    There was a time when Seattle seemed to be headed towards a Boeing economic mono-culture of sorts, and when company employment cratered in 1970, the whole region felt it. At such point as something awful happens to Amazon - say, shareholders demanding a reasonable profit - it could get a bit dark in the CBD.
    • by cusco ( 717999 )

      Bezos' idea up to now has been to keep declared profit to a minimum or negative in order to not have to pay taxes, and just plow that money back into the business. Not a bad strategy, as it improves the stock value that most shareholders are more interested in. Amazon Web Services is now bringing in so much money that they've had to declare a profit (and pay a bunch of taxes) the last couple of years in spite of the money they're spending building. I would be very surprised if AWS isn't spun off in in th

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Sunday July 03, 2016 @06:34AM (#52437773) Homepage Journal

    Waiting for them to change the company name to "Renraku".

    • That's what I was thinking as well ;-) The balls don't seem overly big though. You barely notice them next to the neighbouring high-rises...

  • This fits nicely with Blue Origin. It's one thing to get to space but you're going to need habitats and biospheres and other large scale structures once you get there. Bezos has talked about moving industrial activities off Earth along with mining asteroids.

    I suspect they will learn a thing or two about building these structures on Earth that will be applicable to the longer-term goals of the space-faring Bezos.

  • He wrote a novel called, "The Water Knife." It is his second novel after "The Windup Girl." About "The Water Knife" to see why it popped into my head. http://www.goodreads.com/book/... [goodreads.com]
  • .. if they can do a half-assed job of something that the Belgians (Belgians, FFS!) did better in 1958.

    Amazon - the thrusting company for Millennials who want to work for 1950s ideas. Their (Amazon, not Belgium's) death must be nigh.

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