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Amazon Plans First-Floor Restaurant in Downtown Santa Barbara Office Building

Release Date: February 4,2020

The company recently opened its State Street offices for employees working on Alexa programming and content

Kevin Davis Amazon Santa Barbara
Kevin Davis of Amazon gave a tour of the company’s new facilities at 1001 State St.  on Monday.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

By Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina | February 4, 2020 | 2:30 p.m.

It's the most talked about new company in town — and now Amazon is opening up about its move to downtown Santa Barbara.

“This move downtown is obviously a big step toward getting Amazon more involved in the community and the university and everyone here,” senior manager Kevin Davis said.

The company plans to open a 1,400-square-foot spot at the front entrance for a food vendor, as a way to attract people into the building from the street. 

“That area will be open to the public like any restaurant on State Street,” Davis said. 

Amazon also has a space in the building that will host organizations for trainings, lectures and events such as Ted Talks. The company is sponsoring Downtown Santa Barbara's 1st Thurday event and plans to regularly showcase art in the building. 

The offices opened on Jan. 6 at 1001 State St., the site of the former Saks Fifth Avenue building.

Davis is the Santa Barbara site lead for the Alexa Information Domain, and the building houses software engineers and data scientists who develop programming and content for Alexa, Amazon's cloud-based vocal service.

About 100 employees work in the three-story, 48,000-square-foot building now, and Amazon plans to hire 150 more in the next few years.

Most of the employees are not actually new to the area, but transfers from Summerland, and the company Graphiq that Amazon purchased in 2017.

Amazon Santa Barbara officesClick to view larger
Amazon’s Santa Barbara offices feature lounges, big-screen TVs and plenty of art on the walls.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Amazon, owned by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, received a cool reception after Noozhawk broke the story that the company had quietly moved downtown, raising questions about its presence would drive up the cost of land and lease space in an area of the city already struggling with retail vacancies. 

Federico Filippa, corporate communications manager for Amazon, said that Amazon doesn't usually make big announcements about their openings in various cities until everything is settled.

“It takes a little bit of time to make sure everything is set and then we usually announce,” he said.

The company opened within a year of announcing its plans to take over the State Street building. There's still no sign on the front of the building that tells people the name of the company inside.

The building offers the amenities of a modern corporate office, with large television screens, cozy chairs, conference rooms, lounge areas, a kitchen and eating area, and a Foosball table. 

Most of the employees do not have offices, but instead work in airy common areas.

“Amazon in general looks for having collaborative spaces, where people can be at their most creative,” Davis said during a tour of the building.

Kevin Davis Amazon Santa BarbaraClick to view larger
About 100 employees work in Amazon’s Santa Barbara building on Alexa programming and content, senior manager Kevin Davis said during a tour of the offices.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

“We try to have different open spaces, alternative working spaces, making sure there's opportunities for colleagues and team members to share ideas. We don't have offices here; every one works out in the open space and makes sure ideas are flowing and people are talking.”

For those wanting privacy, there are phone-booth-style rooms where employees can work while sitting on a barstool chair.

One of the lounge areas features a collage of sunset photos that were taken from Graphiq's former Summerland campus, Davis said. 

“The sunset views aren't quite as good here at the new office,” he said. 

The building also features bike storage, lockers, showers, and a dog-friendly environment for the entire office area. 

“It's kind of a big thing for Amazon,” Davis said of the dog-friendly policy. “When they can, they try to negotiate that into the lease.”

He said they plan to add scooter spots to the parking lot in the back of the building. 

“Some people need to drive, but when possible we're encouraging walking, also part of the reason we want to be downtown. It's centrally located to make it easier for people to access the office.”

— Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.