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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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October 1, 2008 7:30 AM

Update: Microsoft campus expansion on track as employment growth continues; campus sports bar confirmed

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Driven out Highway 520 lately? That big cluster of buildings running west of the freeway to 148th Avenue Northeast and along Northeast 40th Street, they weren't there a year ago.

That's Microsoft's huge west campus expansion, announced in early 2006, taking shape. The growth spurt, laid out in what the company thought would be a 15- to 20-year plan, is on schedule for completion next year.

The cluster of nature-themed buildings meant to house Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division have been built over a huge underground parking garage, five levels deep. Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said the garage will be ready for cars in February. The first new building is on track for occupancy in March 2009, with the last one scheduled for July 2009.

The buildings huddle around a central services area called The Commons. It is taking shape now and should be open in April 2009 with a range of food options. Gellos listed Indian, American, Mexican, Asian, deli, coffee and ice cream. The Commons will also have a mini day spa salon, camera store, bank and post office.

There will also be a sports bar, Gellos said in an e-mail, confirming plans for an on-campus watering hole that last year were still tentative.

Some of Microsoft's human resources team has already moved into the former Eddie Bauer headquarters, which is being retrofitted as part of the expansion.

That building will also house a new company visitors center and store, on track for completion in a little over a month. A portion of the store will be open to the public, a change from current practice, but no, the public will not get the Microsoft employee discount. Think hats, mugs, shirts, books.

Part of Microsoft's commitments to ease congestion in the area is a new 520 overpass at Northeast 36th Street connecting the main and west campuses. Gellos said work on that project could commence later this month.

A big driver of the expansion is crowding in the company's existing buildings, exacerbated by continued increase in the company's work force. Total employment at Microsoft globally grew 18 percent in the year ended June 30 to 91,259. Of those, 39,311 work in the greater Puget Sound area.

And the hiring continues: Microsoft added 2,500 employees globally in July and August. In Puget Sound, the full-time staff swelled to 40,580 through the end of August.

For background on the expansion, check out this in-depth story from November 2007.

(Note: I'm out of the office this week. This post was written in advance and scheduled for publication today.)

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