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    Humor: Microsoft, in a bold stroke, solves 520 and Seattle Center problems

    Company will contribute millions for a bridge rebuild and the transformation of Seattle Center, all designs included.
    2014: The year $15 an hour came to Seattle.

    2014: The year $15 an hour came to Seattle.

    In a joint news conference today, Gov. Christine Gregoire and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith announced Microsoft’s contribution of $500 million to rebuild the 520 floating bridge and $250 million to renovate Seattle Center. Under the agreement, replacement bridge construction will begin immediately using plans developed privately by architects hired by Microsoft.

    The deal settles an ongoing tax dispute between Microsoft and the state regarding its 13-year Nevada royalty tax arrangement. Microsoft’s alleged tax debt will be forgiven and no interest or penalties will be assessed. “This deal allows the state to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation which serves no one,” said Gregoire. “Microsoft has long been an advocate for the timely replacement and expansion of the 520 bridge, “ added Smith. “This agreement will allow us to move the region forward now.”

    Transit advocate Ben Schiendelman criticized the plan’s lack of HOV lanes and light rail: “Incredibly, this plan provides only VIP lanes for Microsoft employees and executives.” In a related move, Microsoft’s Connector buses will be retired and sent to earthquake-ravaged Haiti to provide needed shelter and Wi-Fi communication links.

    Instead of new exits for the Montlake side of the bridge, long a disputed subject, the new design features a two-lane tunnel that will extend from west edge of 520 to the base of the Space Needle, which will now house Microsoft’s executive offices.

    The conference was held at the new Rediscover Seattle Center Showroom, where reporters were allowed to view architectural renderings of Microsoft’s proposed new corporate campus.

    Seattle Center will be transformed. The Experience Music Project will be razed to make room for a new retail store, the Experience Microsoft Project, designed jointly by local glass artist Dale Chihuly and architect of the popular Seattle Public Library, Rem Koolhaas. Koolhaas’ design also calls for a glass helipad atop the Needle and a zip line down to a new private airstrip, for which a portion of Memorial Stadium and McCaw Hall will be relocated.

    The Center’s International Fountain will also be renovated. It will feature drowning effigies of Microsoft’s enemies including Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, open source innovator Linus Torvalds, former Borland software CEO Phillippe Kahn, President of the European Union Herman Van Rompuy, Professor Lawrence Lessig, and former U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson.

    The Pacific Science Center will become a private subsidiary of former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold, founder of Intellectual Ventures, which is expected to relocate, expanding research and development jobs in the city. KeyArena will be sold for $1 to a group of Microsoft investors led by CEO Steve Ballmer, who hope to bring NBA basketball back to Seattle.

    Finally, as an efficiency measure and signaling the new detente, legislative hotlines will be installed between Microsoft’s headquarters and key legislative offices in Olympia. The governor will be provided a complimentary suite of offices in the renamed Microsoft Needle.

    The governor was effusive in her gratitude, saying: “This deal is a testament to how effective government can be when we stop trying to include everyone in the process and listen more closely to the fast-moving private sector.” Mayor Mike McGinn had been expected to attend but was delayed by a flat tire on his bike. His office released a statement saying the mayor was "strongly supportive, though neutral," on the Seattle Center plans. The mayor also commended the 520 plan for its sharp reduction of automobile access.

    The press conference allowed only 45 seconds for questions so some details of the plan remain unclear, though they will soon be worked out behind closed doors. Officials refused to comment on rumors that Microsoft contractors and non-employees would be banned from the new 520 bridge during rush hour. Nor was it clear whether any portion of Seattle Center would remain accessible to the public. The company did agree that scuba diving will be allowed in the new Effigies Fountain on Sundays from 7 am to 9 am.

    Jiff Freeman is the author of "Dummies Guide to Anagrams." In his spare time, he enjoys the poetry of Washington State tax law.

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    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 8:03 a.m. Inappropriate

    You had me right up to VIP lanes for Microsoft employees.

    Jon Sayer

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    Righy on! I here that they are going to have the cowardly lion test the zip line!!

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:04 a.m. Inappropriate

    Having lived in Seattle for more than 40 years, I find this one of the funniest things I've ever read.


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:12 a.m. Inappropriate

    Well said! Very funny. I like the zip line, tunnel, Lessig being in the fountain, and the mention of contractors maybe being allowed on the 520 bridge.

    Great stuff!


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:21 a.m. Inappropriate

    And with all due respect to our new Mayor, I'm afraid I can't stop giggling about the flat tire.
    Oh Seattle, we have become such a weird place.....


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 10:42 a.m. Inappropriate

    I don't want to be on that bridge when it turns blue.


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 10:49 a.m. Inappropriate

    I didn't write this story, I swear.


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 11:19 a.m. Inappropriate

    A de facto VIP lane for MS Executives should not be off the table, though the toll would need to be quite high, and perhaps pre-paid.

    Curious in the previous proclamations from Counsel Brad Smith is their following closely on the heels of outside Counsel K & L Gates encouraging Corporate donors to use third party organizations such as the US Chamber to engage in new 'Citizens United' political activities.

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 11:29 a.m. Inappropriate

    I've received the following indignant email from one Temper Freeman of Bellevue:

    I am outraged at the news of Microsoft's plans for the 520 Bridge and Seattle Center, and also the impunity of the author's using my last name. As readers may be aware, I have spent my life building up Bellevue as a world-class shopping city. Now all of this is at risk.

    Microsoft appears intent on following a "Boeing strategy," first shifting its corporate headquarters to a new city, with dire consequences to follow. I will not stand idly by as these affluent, gullible shoppers move away from our Global Retail City. I have instructed my lawyers to examine what lawsuits are appropriate to prevent this move.

    Likewise, Bellevue depends on a steady stream of affluent Seattleites motoring over to our malls and even to visit brazen newcomers like the Brav______ project. Carpools are of no use to us (though I am glad to see all transit lanes scuttled in the Microsoft proposal). We deserve Lexus Lanes instead, and while many of the Microsoft VIPs in the new exclusive lanes will no doubt drive fine cars, they are by no means sufficient to our needs, particularly in these stressful economic times.

    Accordingly, I am prepared to make several counter-offers (subject, if need be. to Bellevue City Council approval). First, we will give up the Bellevue Transit Center lands and build an NBA Arena there, at no cost to Ballmer and his ownership group. Second, we will construct in the Bellevue Downtown Park an executive office tower in the sky at least 300 feet higher than the Space Needle, with Microsoft allowed to pick its own architect. Again, no charge to the company, and we'll waive rent for 50 years. Finally, Bellevue homeowners will assess themselves whatever necessary to build six new Lexus Lanes (three each way) on the 520 Bridge, toll-free with validation stamp from any Bellevue store with a national brand name.

    I trust this will take care of the matter. If not, you can be assured that Bellevue is prepared for armed resistance. I have absolutely no fear of any military response on the part of that girly-man Seattle government.

    --Temper Freeman

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 12:30 p.m. Inappropriate

    Had me until "The Center's International Fountain will be renovated... and feature effigies of Microsoft's enemies..." Ha Ha! Are Bill and Allen such enemies that Bill wants to squash the EMP?


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 1:13 p.m. Inappropriate

    This is an outrage. There were only seven public hearings on the matter, and they all occurred in the middle of the afternoon when I couldn't possibly expect to be up from my mid-afternoon siesta. Did John Fox or the Cascade Bicycle Club have sufficient opportunities to weigh in? Why were the neighborhood councils consulted only twice? And the fourth item on the second advisory vote was phrased poorly, clearly intended to confuse voters. This is the most atrocious, fly-by-night decision in Seattle history since the removal of every other stop on Roosevelt between 60th and 80th Streets.

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 4:36 p.m. Inappropriate

    Nice try, but I've been on my guard since the Weekly's April Fool's hoax a few years ago about a teenage prodigy being the brains behind Microsoft. That one took the cake, had evertbody going, people were on the verge of jumping out of (W)indows.

    So how do we avoid a repeat of the Viaduct fiasco?

    Well, having Nickels and Sims gone is a good start. Otherwise, in response to Boeing's practice of selling planes in Montana, you could negotiate with them to rebuild the Viaduct. Understood, since they've got a foot out the door, they're not much fun to take potshots at anymore.

    Actually, we've already avoided the Waterfront Fiasco so far ... There's no cross-lake tunnel planned - yet, but it's still early. Wait for the Stakeholders to show up.

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 4:39 p.m. Inappropriate

    One of these days, someone's going to write an article about Microsoft moving to India or China. The only problem - it won't be a hoax.

    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 8:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    What's the matter with you people! Don't you have slave labor to complete your architecture design construction projects?! ;-)


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate

    Whata great prank! Here are some others perpetrated this year on an even grander scale: http://www.alternet.org/story/146268/the_three_greatest_pranks_of_2010


    Posted Thu, Apr 1, 10:16 p.m. Inappropriate

    I checked out the link, and yes, boboh7-- the dumping of the Krotch Industries' contaminants into our collective water supply is hilarious.


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