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Meta cuts the ribbon to grow Bellevue’s office space. Tech and art merge in Spring District

Lynne Robinson, Bellevue’s Mayor cut the ribbon on Tuesday to officially greet Meta at the Spring District development. (GeekWire Image / Kurt Schlosser)

Meta officially opened its doors to the development’s offices Tuesday, with cranes still overhead and work continuing on Spring District, Bellevue.

The tech company celebrated its dedication to the region by hosting an open house in Block 16 where executives from the company, as well as local officials, and community partners.

“Ten years ago, the Spring District was an industrial corridor, with dreams of becoming an urban village, and today it is 36 acres of the largest transit-oriented development on the West Coast,” Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson said as she cut a blue ribbon inside Block 16. “It’s my pleasure to officially welcome Meta to the Spring District and to Bellevue.”

Long after it arrived in the Seattle area — as Facebook — to open an engineering outpost, Meta continues to build out a hub that stretches from Seattle’s South Lake Union to Bellevue to Redmond. The company signed five leases in the Spring District, totaling more than 1.4 million square footage of office space. This includes Block 20, which was initially going to become a REI headquarters.

A map showing Spring District properties located in Bellevue. (Spring District image)

One of the three Spring District buildings that have been up and running is Block 16, an 11-story building. It has all of the usual benchmarks of a modern tech workplace — even as companies coming out of almost three years of pandemic-induced disruption grapple with just how much space they’ll need for workers who have gone remote and hybrid.

Paresh Rajwat, Meta’s new head of office in the Pacific Northwest, called the region critical to Meta’s work as he ticked off numerous products being developed in Bellevue and elsewhere.

“There’s a lot of really, really cool things that have come from this region. Mark [Zuckerberg] wants to keep pushing more and more of what the Pacific Northwest can do and the innovation that we can try.”

In a nod to Meta’s big bet on the immersive, futuristic internet, Rajwat repeated what he said in an interview with GeekWire last week, that “the road to the metaverse passes through the Pacific Northwest.”

“We are all over the U.S. We are all over internationally. Each office views this specific region differently. how to Replicate and how to run an office outside of our headquarters,” Rajwat said.

Bellevue Mayor Lynne Robinson, left, and Meta’s Paresh Rajwat use Quest 2 VR headsets during an event in Bellevue, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Robinson and Rajwat were among those checking out some of Meta’s innovation firsthand as they tried on Quest 2 virtual reality headsets and Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses, which allow users to snap photos and videos, listen to music and take calls.

Some of the tech being used is now able to connect with local communities. During the Meta Connect conference earlier Tuesday, Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced an expanded partnership in which Microsoft’s Windows, Office, Teams and other programs will be available for the new Meta Quest Pro and existing Meta Quest 2 headsets.

Aside from the tech and innovation, Meta’s commitment to the arts is on full display at the Spring District campus. Meta Open Arts is responsible for filling Meta buildings with site-specific artwork. The Spring District has 32 such installations, created so far by 34 artists in three buildings.

Meta Open Arts curator Tamar Benzikry shows off some of the artwork that’s been commissioned for the company’s offices. (GeekWire Photo/ Kurt Schlosser).

Artists are encouraged to use new materials, think about the intersection of art and technology in new ways or simply make the biggest thing they’ve ever made, according to Tamar Benzikry, Meta Open Arts curator and producer for the region.

“It’s not really about acquiring artworks that you could move or that could become part of the art market,” Benzikry said. “It’s about investing in local artists, asking them, ‘What is your dream project? We can help you to build it. How can we help you do it in a way that’s really playing with, questioning and prodding and helping us to see our technology differently?”

Screen Shot 2022 10 12 at 10.00.53 AM
A visitor to Meta’s offices activates a QR code on the artwork “Emerging Radiance.” A screen shot of the artwork’s augmented reality interaction is at right. (GeekWire Photo/ Kurt Schlosser
The mural honors the Japanese American farmers that lived in Bellevue from the 1920s through the 1940s. (GeekWire Photo/ Kurt Schlosser).

In Block 16, one such celebrated piece is “Emerging Radiance,” a painted mural that wraps a conference room’s outer walls and comes to life with augmented reality. Recordings tell the stories of Japanese American families who lived on the farmland where Meta’s offices now sit before their internment during World War II. Michelle Kumata, an artist from Japan, created a version of this artwork and won the Tribeca Award.

Meta employees can find inspiration near the ground floor entry of the building in the Open Arts maker area, which promotes tactile creativity. For a short break, engineers can try 3D printing and traditional inkscreen printing.

The Meta Open Arts maker space in Block 16 in Bellevue’s Spring District. (GeekWire Photo/Kurt Schlosser).

Coverage from the past:

Bellevue’s boom: City’s tech industry is poised to eat Seattle’s lunch

Meta grabbing more space in Bellevue’s Spring District with lease of fifth office building

Bellevue’s housing crisis is a result of the massive tech growth that is looming.

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