Starbucks Expanding Its Sodo Center Headquarters

Fast-growing Starbucks is about to grow at its administrative headquarters at the Sodo Center south of the Kingdome, leasing up to one-third of the landmark building by the end of the decade and transforming it into an "urban office campus."

A renovation project that more than doubles the space Starbucks leases at the big building at 2401 Utah Avenue South will wrap up at the end of the month, said Howard Wollner, the company's vice president for administration.

The specialty coffee company - which has nearly 700 stores and plans to add 275 in the next year - began leasing space for administrative offices at the Sodo Center in 1993, occupying the entire eighth floor, about 130,000 square feet.

With the latest renovation, Starbucks takes over the ninth floor and part of the seventh floor, giving it nearly 300,000 square feet in the nine-story center. More than 600 Starbucks employees work there.

A warehouse at the north end of the center will be converted into a 700-car garage, with Starbucks as a chief user.

Amenities such as a gym have been mentioned for the top of the garage, but Wollner said there are no plans beyond the office project.

Within the next three to five years, Starbucks will lease up to 600,000 square feet at the 1.8 million-square-foot center, once the home of Sears' regional catalog distribution center and now owned by Nitze-Stagen, a property-management company.

Starbucks' administrative offices had been housed at its original roasting plant on Airport Way South. The company's mail-order phone center will stay at the plant, but all other offices are at Sodo, Wollner said.

Seattle Mayor Norm Rice praised Starbucks' decision to expand in Seattle and said its headquarters will prove companies "don't have to move to the suburbs to create a distinctive office environment."

Angie Davis, Sodo marketing director, said Starbucks is involved in plans to add more trees and open space to the site.

"Howard Schultz (Starbucks' chairman and CEO) has said he wanted an urban campus; that's what he's trying to create here," she said.

The first three floors of the Sodo Center are devoted to retail, including Sears and OfficeMax stores. Industrial tenants make up the middle three floors.

The building has 55 tenants. It was originally constructed in 1913 with several additions over the years.