Weyerhaeuser Co. headed to Seattle from Federal Way

Weyerhaeuser announced Tuesday it plans to move its headquarters from Federal Way to Seattle in mid-to-late 2016.

The timber-growing company founded in Tacoma in 1900 moved to Federal Way in 1971.

The site of the new headquarters building will be in a yet-to-be-built 7-story building at 200 Occidental Avenue in Pioneer Square. The new building will be about 165,000 square feet in floor area. The company’s present headquarters in Federal Way is more than twice as large.

The site of the new timber company headquarters is presently a parking lot. The move to Pioneer Square could help gentrify the historic area, which in recent years has become known for nightclubs and bars.

“There are two main drivers for this decision, which we made after thorough analysis of various options for the location of our headquarters,” said Doyle R. Simons, Weyerhaeuser president and CEO. “First, our 430-acre campus in Federal Way is costly and too large for our needs. Second, moving our headquarters to Seattle will give us access to a larger talent pool to meet future recruiting needs, not just in this region, but from across the country.”

The company in recent years, driven in part by tax laws that give certain corporate structures tax advantages, has shrunk its operations from a vertically integrated wood products and homebuilding company to a smaller real estate investment trust holding timber lands, manufacturing lumber and fiber. The company recently sold its Quadrant homebuilding division and its Westwood shipping line.

Weyerhaeuser’s company-wide employment fell from 54,000 in 2004 to 13,200 in 2014, said company spokesman Anthony Chavez. About 800 of those workers are employed at the headquarters.

The move has been rumored for months in Federal Way, but Tuesday’s internal announcement was the first confirmation.

“Weyerhaeuser has a long successful history in Federal Way,” Simons said. “We’ve attracted great people to work here and this campus has served us well. Moving to Seattle is an important step forward for us, and I’m excited about the opportunities it will bring to our company and employees.”

Weyerhaeuser is the second major South Sound company to move to downtown Seattle in recent years. Tacoma’s Russell Investments moved to a skyscraper vacated by Washington Mutual four years ago.

The fate of Weyerhaeuser’s distinctive headquarters visible east of Interstate 5 has not yet been determined. The company plans to market the building and the land that surrounds it to developers. The company’s technical center near the headquarters will remain in Federal Way along with its 120 workers.

Brian Wilson, chief of staff to Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, said Weyerhaeuser has been a solid citizen of the community for more than four decades. The city had heard rumors for several months about a possible move. The company has pledged to work with the city to find new uses for the headquarters campus, he said.

“There’s tremendous opportunity there,” said Wilson. “There’s more than 400 acres of land in a prime area.”

When the Skidmore, Owings and Merrill-designed structure opened more than four decades ago, it won numerous architectural awards. The building pioneered green roofs and open seating arrangements even on the executive levels. The surrounding area was punctuated by walking trails and forests that recalled the company’s tree-growing heritage.

Staff writer Kathleen Cooper contributed to this report.