Facebook on Capitol Hill? Real estate brokers make their pitch

Buried in the buzz and speculation about where Facebook will locate its new Seattle office is this: The man the gargantuan social network brought in to help build its team of Emerald City engineers chose Capitol Hill for his start-up’s home. Will Facebook become the first $11.5 billion company in the neighborhood?

Facebook has said it will open a new office in Seattle by July with an expected workforce of about 30 engineers. The company has also said it has yet to secure that office space, a prospect that no doubt excites many a commercial real estate broker. Facebook has been entirely mum on their hunt for Seattle area real estate. Every real estate industry person we spoke to about the Internet giant asked us the same question — Did CHS know who is representing Facebook? We don’t. Not yet, at least.

What we do know is the company has tapped Hadi Partovi to fill an advisory role to help the company recruit area engineers, according to Facebook’s announcement about their Seattle expansion:

To help recruit a local team of “super-star” engineers, we’re also announcing that Hadi Partovi will be joining Facebook in an advisory role. A serial entrepreneur who has worked with many of the groundbreaking companies on the Web, Hadi is a great addition to the Facebook team. I’m looking forward to working with him to get up to speed quickly in Seattle’s technical community and attracting the area’s top engineers.

Partovi’s own start-up, iLike, called 1605 Boylston home for a few years until the social music technology developer was swallowed up by MySpace in 2009. We called Eagle Rock Ventures real estate, the company that was leasing that space, to find out if Partovi might be leading Facebook back to his old stomping grounds at Boylston and Pine. Alas, Suite 202 is now part of the Rudy’s expanded office, ERV director Scott Shapiro tells us.

Shapiro said he does have hopes that Facebook will check out another project he is involved with. Shapiro says the Melrose Market project would be an ideal home for a company like Facebook.

“The physical space is great,” Shapiro said of the building’s 5,200 square feet of office space. “We have a historic building but we also have the amenities. We’re going to have three restaurants, and a bar and market. And we’re literally across the street from downtown.”

Shapiro says he not yet spoken to anybody at Facebook about the property.

Another player who says he would like a seat at the table is broker Karl Haisch at Cannon Commercial. Haisch hasn’t talked to anybody at Facebook, either. But he did use the company’s own technology to contact Ari Steinberg, one of about 300 engineers at the 1,200 person company, and the person who made the initial announcement about the new Seattle office.

“I actually facebooked Ari about this,” Haisch said. Haisch told CHS that being in the broker community and a techie has him watching the situation very closely. He also thinks the engineers at Facebook would find his space inside the Odd Fellows Building perfect for their needs.

“We have a wide range of tenants from start ups to experienced marketing companies to dance studios,” Haisch said. “They all share the theme of neighborhood companies.”

“I think Facebook is looking for that. I don’t think they’re looking for downtown office space.”

But downtown Seattle is exactly how Facebook is describing its new Seattle office in already posted job listings. Here’s a screen grab:

Still, when it comes to big companies and geography, downtown Seattle could mean almost anything. Even Kirkland. That’s where Google decided to open its first Pacific Northwest engineering facility. The company now also has offices in Fremont.

Haisch thinks the Eastside could end up winning this hand but still thinks the Hill has the best odds. “I think Capitol Hill would be the first place they would go based on how much culture is up there,” Haisch said. “I just don’t see them going to any ‘professional’ space. It doesn’t ring with their nature.”

501 E. Pine (Photo: Catalyst)

Back on the Hill, the potential prospect list for a future Facebook home is short. In addition to Shapiro and his Melrose Market and Haisch and Odd Fellows, we also contacted Laura Miller of Catalyst Commercial Partners thinking she might steer us toward the office space she represents inside the new Packard Building at 12th and Pine. Instead, she suggested the 7,200 square feet of office space available on two floors of 501 E. Pine. It’s also the home of Travelers Tea and across the street from the People’s Parking Lot. She also sent CHS a flyer with lease details. Maybe she knew about our Facebook Fan Page (1,040 fans!) and knew how much pull we have with the ‘Book.

Also catching up on the game, the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce’s new interim director Michael Wells said he wasn’t aware of any effort on the Chamber’s part to reach out to Facebook — yet. Wells said he’s considering options on how to reach out. He might want to follow Haisch’s lead and ‘facebook Ari’ or, at least facebook Haisch. Become a fan of CHS while you’re at it, won’t you Michael?

Got a tip on the real estate beat? Send us a mail at CHS@capitolhillseattle.com

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7 thoughts on “Facebook on Capitol Hill? Real estate brokers make their pitch

  1. Great article! I think Capitol Hill could arguably be considered the “metropolitan heart” at least in terms of culture ;)

    Maybe someone who’s more in the know about business and real estate can fill me in here, but it seems to me that Capitol Hill lacks good mid-sized office space. While we have some great small and interesting spaces, perhaps good for startups start-ups, much of these would be pretty small for a company like Facebook, no?

    Of the properties listed above, how many workers could they accommodate comfortably. As well, do many of them have all the amenities (group kitchen, fully equipped conference room, bike storage space)that office workers have come to expect these days?

  2. Yeah, this only scratches surface on the real estate end of things. I was surprised there were any candidates at all, actually. But if you go by some accepted standards of 1 employee per 150-200 sqft, Facebook needs about 6,000 sqft so a few of these Hill spots would be a little tight under old conventional wisdom. But don’t know if times have changed on the employee:space ratio. And who needs a group kitchen when you have Oddfellows Cafe downstairs? :)

    Another factor for the Melrose Market would be timing. There’s still prep work going on inside the building so don’t know if a July turnaround would even be realistic. We have a mail out asking about that.

  3. Interesting read, and nice theory with the Hadi Partvoi Capitol Hill connection.

    It is unlikely that Facebook will head to the Eastside. At least that’s what the company’s VP of engineering told me in an interview last week after Facebook announced plans for the new office.

    Facebook exec Schoepfer noted that the company was looking at the west side of Seattle and downtown Seattle.

    http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/05/facebook_engineerin

    John Cook
    TechFlash.com