By Zosha Millman

As the world awaits Amazon’s HQ2 decision, many pundits and pontificaters have turned their eyes to Seattle in order to better understand the footprint Amazon might have on a city. But it isn’t as simple as just looking.

Seattle has changed a lot in the years since the web’s biggest bookseller opened up shop here. In many ways it’s shaped the city Seattle has become, but not in quantifiable ways: What would Seattle housing look like without Amazon bolstering the local economy? What would South Lake Union be?

And even though Amazon has wormed its way into plenty of building nooks and crannies throughout the city, the company has been tight-lipped about exactly how much real estate they’ve taken on. Over 40,000 employees work throughout the city, but it’s hard to know exactly where they’re all punching the clock.

Commercial real estate firms in towns have pretty good guesses. And now, BuildZoom has stepped in to try to assess how much space Amazon takes up in the city – and it’s pretty astounding.

Using the BuildZoom’s National Building Permit Repository, the firm reports more than $1.9 billion in Seattle metro area building permits have been filed for Amazon-occupied office space since the company moved to South Lake Union.

That spans nearly 13.6 million square feet across the Seattle metro area, and includes 45 structures in Queen Anne, South Lake Union, Downtown Seattle and Bellevue.Since Amazon’s big move to the South Lake Union area in 2007, over $1.9 billion in building permits have been filed for Amazon-occupied office space in the Seattle metro area, which spans nearly 13.6 million feet, according to BuildZoom. Photo: BuildZoom

Photo: BuildZoom

According to the report, about $1.8 billion of that was in building permits to date, with the remaining $120 million spent on tenant improvements for leased office spaces.

BuildZoom includes a breakdown of individual blocks and chunks of the campus: The initial South Lake Union cluster of 10 buildings (first developed by Vulcan Real Estate and sold for $1.16 billion in 2012) cost about $450 million in permits. Block 19 in the Denny Triangle neighborhood cost over $650 million in permits alone.

And that’s all before new parcel development hit the scene.

All in all, it’s enough to fill the Empire State Building five times over and the Columbia Center more than eight times.

So what does that mean for HQ2? 

In short, the campus is likely to have a greater impact in a smaller metro.

“A campus of this magnitude will not be easy for any city to accommodate except for the very largest,” BuildZoom’s Chief Economist, Dr. Issi Romem, said.

“Amazon will likely build new office buildings, as it did in Seattle, but will likely also snap up significant square footage in existing office space, especially in its earlier stages of growth. Amazon will likely reduce vacancy rates, crowd out other tenants, and drive up office rents, especially in the short run. In the longer run, Amazon will expand the office supply and, more generally, help deepen the talent pool.”

Ten years from now, it may be a whole new world, just like Seattle.

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