Two weeks ago, my group of several hundred people, were relocated to a barely completed high-rise in downtown Bellevue. The leased building is about four physical and over hundred metaphysical miles from the main Microsoft campus in Redmond.
The building, called the Bravern, is one of two high-rise office buildings along with numerous upscale retail shops (including Neiman Marcus), restaurants, and two 24-story towers of condominiums that start at the very (cough, cough) affordable price of $600,000 for a studio.
Half of the people in my group are thrilled with the move and the other half, like me, want to slither back to the campus. In spite of my trepidations about moving, however, it’s an amazing location and makes me want to ditch my usual Goodwill blue jeans and wrinkled shirts for more chic clothing.
The problem with the Bravern is that it’s the complete opposite of the neighboring Microsoft campuses. First, it’s in downtown Bellevue, which is the epicenter of horrific traffic because it’s at the juncture of two freeways and a hop-and-skip-and-a-jump from one of the two bridges that cross Lake Washington into Seattle. Plus, it’s super upscale with many high-rise office, condo and apartment buildings; and Beverly Hills-caliber stores and restaurants.
The Microsoft Redmond campuses, in contrast, are more akin to Birkinstock-wearing with lush landscapes, walking trails, two- to four-story buildings, easy to access parking, many commercial and residential roads in-and-out of the campuses, and small strip malls nearby with small, affordable restaurants, shops and services.
My day typically begins on a timed on-ramp that leads to a crowded freeway, busy off-ramps, and long signals in downtown Bellevue. Below are pictures of the off-ramp and surface streets, leading into downtown Bellevue (yes there’s snow on the ground).
I then swipe an electronic card to enter the Bravern garage. I wind two floors down to a second gate where I use the electronic card once again. The Microsoft parking is on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors of the garage.
Next, I walk to a special set of elevators and go up eight floors to the third floor of the building where the Microsoft lobby is located. I then "badge" into another elevator area and go up six flights to the ninth floor where I "badge" onto the floor.
I was told that the view from my office was going to look into the second office tower, which is seven or so stories higher and about twice as wide. My office, however, is perfectly situated. I can see through two high-rises, straight to downtown Seattle and several snow-capped mountains.
I shot the picture below from my office. The second office tower is to the right. One of the condo towers is to the left. In the distance is downtown Bellevue along with views of surface parking, medium- and high-rise buildings.
When I first moved to Washington, Microsoft set me up in a furnished apartment for eight weeks. This apartment is within walking distance of the Bravern, which at the time was nothing but a large hole in the ground where they were starting to build the huge underground parking garage. I never envisioned working in downtown Bellevue when I lived in the apartment.
Note: I loved living in the apartment. It was summer 2007 when I moved. The sun set around 10 o’clock at night. I relished going home, having a quick snack, working out at the apartment’s fitness center, gobbling some dinner then taking a walk and peering up at all the buildings, wandering through Bellevue Square, seeing the trendy stores, and marveling at the construction cranes. At the time, there were a dozen or more cranes, helping to erect buildings of all sizes.
Now I find myself in Bellevue five days a week and wishing I was in a less crazy place!
The photograph to the left is a zoomed-in version of what I can see from my office. Between the two buildings is downtown Seattle (overcast day). Looking down from my window, I can see Neiman Marcus, retail shops, restaurants, and landscaped area, which will be completed towards the end of the year.
The inside of the Bravern is quite wonderful with funky furniture, lighting, focus rooms with comfy seats, kitchens on each floor with refrigerator cases of soda, fruit juices, and milk… along with a machine that grinds and makes cups of Starbucks’ coffee… and wild walk textures. The interior is what you’d find in a lawyer firm or advertising agency.
There are four decor themes. My floor’s theme is Hyderabad (India) with lots of grays, marigold, saffron, and touches of black. The cafeteria on the thirteenth floor has fire engine red, plastic (think 70’s) textured walls, white tables, red tables, and sections of black, clear and red tiles.
The offices have off-white workstations with poles on which one’s computer monitor is suspended. The offices also have a small section of shelves and a white board. The back wall of my office is a bank of windows.
The front is series of glass panel with a glass door that rolls open, much like a sliding glass door. People use markers to draw on the glass and personalize their space. The markers whip off easily so you can draw, erase and start over on a daily basis.
The picture to the right is of the two 24-story condo towers that will be completed in 2010. If I’m still working at the Bravern (and not back at the main campus), I’ll be able to get to work early and use binoculars to watch people getting dressed in the morning. Hey! If they don’t have curtains, it’s there problem!