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Urban Campus Neighborhood

Amazon and our local community

Marty Hartman receives a key to Mary's Place's future home on Amazon's campus

Last spring, I shared about the work we are doing with Mary’s Place, providing housing to homeless families in a building that was previously a Travelodge. Amazon had purchased the land the building sat on and put the building to good use while plans were being made to develop the property.

As it turns out, those plans involve a permanent spot for Mary’s Place. Amazon is donating 47,000 square feet of space inside the building that will occupy the city block at 7th and Bell, in the Denny Triangle area of Seattle. Sure, it’s an unusual arrangement, to partner with an organization to provide shelter for 200 women, children and families right on our campus. There’s a lot of excitement here for this opportunity.

While construction is underway, Mary’s Place residents will be temporarily be moved to another vacant hotel across the street. The planned opening date for Amazon’s new building is in 2020. You can read more about our plans here.

There have been other plans made recently to integrate Amazon into the local community through partnerships. Back in February, we announced a partnership with Farestart, including plans to donate equipment and 25,000 square feet of space on our campus to help them launch an apprentice program.

What’s exciting to me about both of these announced opportunities is that the organizations and the people they support will be part of our campus environment, part of the same community. Having worked previously on a suburban corporate campus (beautiful soccer fields and all), I can tell you that there is a different energy when your campus is in an urban neighborhood; you are more a part of it.  Programs like these give you a connection to your community that you don’t get in other environments. It’s exciting to be a part of it.

Day One for plants in the Amazon Spheres

Last week, students toured our greenhouse and learned from our horticulture team

Anyone who commutes into or through downtown Seattle is familiar with a construction project that I hope will one day become an icon in Seattle’s architectural landscape: Amazon’s spheres. Over the last few years, our horticulture team has been busy curating and nurturing our diverse plant collection that will go inside. And yesterday marked a milestone for the team and for all of the Amazonians who will soon have access to the spheres; we planted our first plant, an Australian Tree Fern.

Eventually, over 40,000 plants will call the spheres home, where they will enjoy a climate-controlled environment that replicates natural cycles and creates an ideal environment for these plants to thrive. It’s also a place for employees to thrive. Research shows that creativity flourishes when humans experience a connection with nature. Our spheres bring that connection opportunity right into the core of our campus environment.

Here’s a short video explaining the thinking behind the spheres.

You can keep up with all things sphere-related by following our progress on Instagram @SeattleSpheres.

And links to local press coverage here:

Geekwire story on the spheres and Amazon’s first fern

Q13’s look inside spheres

KUOW on the plant life inside the spheres

Lots of photos of yesterday’s event from Seattle PI

Amazon on The Muse

Main"Someone said a picture is worth a thousand words, but pictures and words together are really awesome." OK, well I just said it, but it's true; especially when the pictures and words are answering the question "what's it like to work at Amazon?" People generally want to see our environment and they want to hear employees talk about their experiences here.

We recently launched a page on The Muse, which is a web platform dedicated to providing behind-the-scenes looks at employers and lots of career-related advice. There's lots of video content, and employees talking about what it's like working here, with specific topics including internal mobility,  our writing culture, and what it means to be "peculiar". You can go to the page to experience all of the content, but I've included a few of my favorite employee profiles below.

Eric Will Sarah










You'll also find the inevitable cute dog photos on the page as well. Take a look around and let me know if you have any questions about anything you learned about Amazon on The Muse.

One million bananas worth of peculiar

Recently, Amazon handed out it's one-millionth banana. Not through Amazon Fresh or an on-campus cafeteria, but through it's two Community Banana Stands. Yep, they are a thing. Started back in 2015, the stands (well, just one back then) were conceived by Jeff Bezos himself, as a fun way to share nature's perfect snack with Seattle.

The two current stands are located in front of Amazon buildings, on Terry Avenue (in Van Vorst Plaza near Mercer), and in front of Amazon's Doppler building on Westlake Avenue. They are open for business, well free bananas actually, Monday through Friday. Anyone is welcome to come and enjoy the bananas; you don't need to be an Amazon employee.

You might wonder WHY Amazon is handing out free bananas to anyone who walks by and sharing banana-related trivia. You might even say it sounds a little peculiar. We're OK with that. Does there really need to be a reason other than that it's just fun?  

Seattle Times covers our one-millionth banana milestone, with a little banana trivia of their own here

Seattle for newcomers (and people who want to be)

Seattle peopleAsk someone on the street here in Seattle where they are from and chances are they will name someplace other than Seattle. According to new US Census data, on 40% of King County residents were born in Washington State. As someone who has a hard time answering the question “where are you from?” I’ve never been able to come up with a simple answer. I’ve been in Seattle for 17 years now, so even though I would never refer to myself as a native Seattleite or Washingtonian, this is certainly home to me.

Working in the tech industry, my friends are a mix of Washington-born-and-bred and fellow-transplants. The tech industry here attracts a lot of new talent from outside the Puget Sound area (Puget Sound = the body of water Seattle sits on; no, we are not a coastal city). Many of the people, like myself, who have relocated here for work, have fallen in love with Seattle. Like any other city, we have our growing pains. But to me (and others), they are far outweighed by natural beauty, clean air, mild climate, proximity to things you want to do, interesting culture and professional opportunity.

The Seattle Times covers changes in the makeup of Seattle’s population, and they ran some stories this past week aimed at helping transplants acclimate. These stories and resources are also good for people thinking about joining us here.

This quiz will help you find the just-right Seattle neighborhood for your lifestyle. I took the quiz and my old South Lake Union neighborhood was one of my recommendations. The Times has assembled some neighborhood profiles here as well.

If you are planning a visit to check out our fine city, here are the top attractions. In my opinion, Pike Place Market is the must-do. It’s the “tourist attraction” that locals still love. I love everything about it, especially on a chilly, rainy day.

Just for fun, here’s an architecture quiz. Those of us who now call Seattle home can test whether we are worthy. I got seven out of 12. Someone needs to brush up on their local architecture.  Fun fact: one of the buildings featured used to be home to Amazon.

Seattle is known for its great restaurants. But that doesn’t just mean the cloth napkin kind. Here is a guide to cheap eats in Seattle including a map. Seattle is the city that introduced me to pho and I am eternally grateful.

When I got here, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Snoqualmie and Snohomish. Now, I think I do better than average when it comes to local pronunciation. Here’s a quiz where you can test your pronunciation of local towns and attractions. And you can compare your success with that of the folks here. It may make you feel better about your first time trying to pronounce Puyallup. PEW-al-uhp.

Here’s the rest of the Newcomer’s Guide. Let me know if you have any questions, like whether everyone in Seattle really drives a Subaru (nope, just 10% of residents) or whether there is actually good pizza here (you’ll love it, once you calibrate your expectations, especially you Chicagoans).

For more info on moving to Seattle:

The things I wished someone had told me about moving to Seattle

Seattle relocation information

Look at all those Amazonian dogs

BiscuitAmazon’s dog-friendly environment is well-known, and often one of the first things people ask employees about. Working here, you get accustomed to seeing pups in the elevators and baby gates blocking off work areas so peoples’ canine buddies don’t wander the halls.  We get a little spoiled by all the sweet dogs we get to visit around here.

Now you can experience some of that Amazonian cuteness every time you click on a bum link to an page. Because our 404 pages now feature a rotating crew Amazon dogs. You can check out the full pack here. Good luck not picking out a few favorites and imagining what your life would be like with one of those adorable pups by your side. Who can resist a dog whose favorite toy is human emotion?

A calendar featuring some of our four-legged friends is available on, with proceeds benefiting the ASPCA.

Connecting Amazonians new to Seattle

New2SeattleMoving to a new place is an exciting life event. I remember adjusting to Seattle after living most of my life in Chicago and Los Angeles. What I knew of Seattle was from a few short visits, MTV’s coverage of the grunge phenomenon and the movie Singles. None of that gave me the information I needed to settle in. I arrived here, breathed in the cedar-scented air and thought “welp, let’s figure this place out.”

All those years ago, I wasn’t working at Amazon. My resources were a month of temporary housing and the advice of a few new co-workers. I ended up making some mistakes – picking a neighborhood that didn’t really match the lifestyle I imagined, for example. Quite honestly, the experience left me feeling a little lonely. Today, I see it as a process that would have been made a lot better if I had a social circle to consult; people to share ideas and information with who were going through the same experience I was.

Amazon’s Consumer Division (what you think of as recently launched a program called New2Seattle, for all of its industry employees relocating to the Seattle area. The program offers social events allowing new employees and their families to network with other Amazonians who have also relocated within the last 6 months. The events are purely social (one lunch a month and a happy hour or family hour each quarter) and employees are grouped by common interest, neighborhood or where they relocated from. A recent event had new employees at Rhein Haus drinking beer and playing bocce ball.

The program is still new so we are learning as we go. Currently, we are focused on identifying what resources we should be offering as part of the program (and in true Amazon customer-obsessed fashion, we are gathering lots of feedback from participants to know what interests them). We’ve tested out some things – for example, we recently hosted the folks from Chinook Book and paid for mobile memberships for those who attended. At an event earlier in the year, Underdog Sports was on site with some games and opportunities to sign up for leagues (which was a hit with attendees).

Our plan is to learn from new employees what would most help them develop their real-life social networks and acclimate to living in Seattle.

By the way, the Seattle Times just published some interesting research this weekend. It’s not new news that only 38% of Seattleites are natives (born here). But what is surprising, to me at least, is that this makes us the third most geographically diverse city in the United States. Their research also lets you look at the geographical mix of different neighborhoods. So if you’re itching to be surrounded by your hometown homies, you can check out where they are on the map.

Patios galore in SLU

Brave Horse PatioOur recent spate of warm days has me so looking forward to the opening of our own Farmers Market on campus (open to the public, occurring every Thursday June 2 – October 13 from 10 am to 2 pm). As I’ve mentioned before, Seattleites love some warm weather and take advantage of it.

This year, there are some new ways to do that. A number of restaurants have recently opened (or plan to), many with patios. I walked by Ballard Pizza Company one day last week and the place was hopping.

Seattle Met’s Nosh Pit has the scoop on some of the new places where you can wet your whistle outside.


New and Planned

Ballard Pizza Company (website not yet updated with new location as I post this, but it is open)

Frost Donuts… and wine?

Bar Harbor


The 100-Pound Clam


And these are some of my favorites that have been here for a while


Brave Horse Tavern


Tutta Bella Pizzeria

I Love Sushi

Portage Bay Cafe


Amazon is helping Mary’s Place provide shelter to homeless families

TravelodgeSeattle’s Denny Triangle, a portion of what’s known as the Denny Regrade, is where downtown Seattle meets South Lake Union. Prior to the construction boom here, the areas wasn’t one where people spent much time; residential development was almost non-existent, and the triangle was full of parking lots, car dealers and the type of low-slung motels previous zoning accommodated. It wasn’t that long ago that one reporter questioned ”what kind of catalyst will spark changes in the Denny Triangle[?]”

Well now we know, obviously, that Amazon was going to be a big part of that catalyst. There were other notable investments in the area before Amazon arrived, but none have gotten the same amount of attention. We started occupying buildings in South Lake Union in 2010 and as we have grown (in employees and facilities), new construction projects have been launched (and completed) in Denny Triangle, a few blocks to the south of Amazon’s core. As parcels have been purchased and permit requests filed, some land in the area inevitably sits unused. Today, it was announced that Amazon has partnered with Mary’s Place to leverage some of that land (and the building that sits on it) to house homeless families.  Partner Seattle

For the next year, the building formerly known as the local Travelodge, and more recently as a dormitory, will serve as a homeless shelter for 60-70 families in need (approximately 200 people). Eventually, construction will begin on the site, adjacent to our notable biospheres. Until then, and starting next Monday, families will occupy the building rent-free. Each family will have a room and bathroom, and access to a playroom, kitchen and some common space. The facility will be open from 5PM to 8 AM during the week (though families are welcome to leave belongings there during the day) and all day on the weekends. And when construction does start on the lot, we hope to be able to offer another site to house the families.  More details are in the Seattle Times article linked below.

We are really proud about this partnership between Amazon and Mary’s Place and the support that’s been offered by the city.

Read more:

Amazon to set up temporary homeless haven on downtown campus (Seattle Times)

Amazon offers Seattle property for family homeless shelter (King 5)

Amazon & Mary’s Place Turning Former Denny Triangle Hotel Into Homeless Shelter (Curbed Seattle)

Mary’s Place Facebook Page

Mary’s Place page with Amazon Wishlist

Bringing some pretty incredible food options to downtown Seattle

Doppler foodAmazon’s Doppler building is perched on the border of downtown and South Lake Union. As a resident of the latter, I can tell you that this area’s past is not associated with great cuisine. This area was mostly a culinary no-man’s-land. As recently as 5 years ago, South Lake Union’s gastronomic highlights included a coffee shop and a burger joint (both of which we were thankful to have). That was about it. On the edge of downtown, you’d get to more tourist-focused establishment, but the real gems of our city’s awesome food scene were elsewhere.

That has changed big time. And just when you feel like you have a handle on the many dining options here, some more pop up. When I wrote about the recently-opened Amazon Doppler building, I mentioned some of the new restaurants opening there (as well as what I inelegantly referred to as the “food court”). Now it appears that the building’s restaurants are going full-steam. This article in The Stranger explains the thinking behind some of these restaurants’ decisions to locate themselves here, and paints a delicious picture of the food you can expect, including an eggplant guacamole that the author appreciated: “I'm not sure that I'll ever truly accept it as guacamole, but I admire its existence.” Alright, then.  The article also speaks to Amazon’s overall presence in this part of town and the benefit it has for Seattle (commitments to fund bike lanes and outdoor areas, for example).

I don’t sit in Doppler but it is nearby. And especially on sunny days like today, it’s nice to have so many delicious options come lunchtime or happy hour. Here’s more details on the restaurants in Doppler.



(mon-sat: 11 am - 9 pm, sun: 11 am -8 pm)


Mamnoon Street 

(mon - sat 11 am - 9 pm, sun: 11 am - 8 pm)


Great State Burger 

(daily: 11 am – 9 pm)


Bar Noroeste

(mon-thurs: 11 am – 12 am, fri: 11 am-2 am, sat: 5pm-2am)



(mon – fri: 8 am - 9 pm, sat: 11 am - 9 pm, sun: 11 am - 8 pm)



(mon – sat: 8 am – 9 pm, sun: 8 am – 8 pm)


Coming Soon:

Cinque Terre (May 2016)


Read more:

Why foodies should pay attention to Amazon's Doppler building

Mamnoon Bringing New Restaurant to SLU Amazon Building