Nike expansion plans could be much bigger than company projected

Nike expansion plans could be much bigger than company projected
An architectural drawing of Nike's proposed Northwoods building.

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Nike's $275 million expansion effort may be even bigger — and a lot different — than previously reported.

Washington County commissioners on Tuesday approved zoning changes that allow the footwear and apparel giant to build as many as five new buildings.

The zoning changes largely apply to the northeast corner of the company's campus, not the west side where it acquired 600,000 square feet of office space last May for $84.5 million.

That giant deal came one month after Nike said it would erect two new buildings on its campus and led some to conclude Nike would scuttle its plans for new buildings and instead focus on renovating those it acquired. Unlike the sleek, stylish buildings on the original Nike campus, the buildings it acquired are largely drab commercial office space.

Speculation that Nike would focus on renovation instead of new construction was fueled in October when Nike said the plans for its 286-acre campus had become more "ambitious" and included enhanced design.

The zoning changes approved Tuesday — and first reported by The Oregonian — allow Nike to build four buildings on the northeast corner of its campus and one on the south side.

The first building could be a bigger version of the so-called Northwoods Building that Nike proposed in planning documents last year. The building would have been immediately north of the Tiger Woods Conference Center, the newest building on Nike's campus and a nerve center of sorts because it hosts investor days, product launches and annual meetings.

Planning documents showed the Northwoods Building would have been around 100 feet and five stories. The zoning changes approved Tuesday include a 160-foot cap on new buildings at the northeast corner of the campus. That means the Northwoods Building, if it moves ahead, and potentially three other new buildings, could each be nine stories.

Clustering the buildings near the northeast corner of campus would allow Nike's campus to retain its university-like vibe. When the campus was first designed more than two decades ago, Nike co-founder Phil Knight wanted it to resemble a college campus. Knight reasoned that college is a time of creativity, learning and play. He wanted to instill those values in Nike.

Last August, the Business Journal reported that Nike's recent property deals and building plans exceed $275 million, including the $84.5 million deal, $44 million in 2012 for a series of buildings formerly owned by IBM and at least  $150 million in new construction promised as part of a deal for tax-certainty.

The flurry of activity put to rest decades of speculation about the company leaving Oregon.

Nike has the cash to easily finance the building spree. It has nearly $6.3 billion in cash and short-term investments on  its balance sheet.

At an investor day in October, Chief Financial Officer Don Blair said the company expects to steer more of its cash to capital projects. Blair predicted capital spending will rise to around 3-4 percent of sales, or more than $750 million annually.

Nike owns 466 acres of land in Washington County, including 84 acres of undeveloped woodland immediately south of the campus.

Click here for a slideshow of a walking tour of the campus. Click here for an interactive map that shows when it acquired various parcels.

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.

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