Software giant SAS is following a record-breaking year by preparing its 22-building Cary campus for future growth.
The Cary Town Council on Thursday unanimously approved a request by SAS to build a 247,000-square-foot office on 27 of its 300 acres near the intercharge of Interstate 40 and Harrison Avenue.
Building P, as the proposal is known, will be located at the corner of SAS Campus Drive and Trenton Road. It will have a cafe, a large common area and about 208,000 square feet of office space.
This is the latest of the company’s expansion plans. SAS plans to open Building Q this fall, while Building P will open in 2016.
SAS revenue rose 5.2 percent last year, propelling the company past the $3 billion mark for the first time.
That enabled the company to boost employment by 3.5 percent worldwide to 13,800 employees and by 1 percent in Cary to more than 5,100 employees.
Senior Vice President Jim Davis has said he expects SAS revenues to grow by double digits this year.
SAS spokeswoman Desiree Adkins declined to say whether Building P is a reaction to a growing need for more employees.
“Like any business we look ahead to make sure we’re prepared for future growth,” she said. “Employee growth projections in Cary are dependent upon market demands and customer needs.”
SAS needed permission from Cary to build because its construction plan doesn’t comply with some town rules.
For example, SAS plans to remove eight trees that are 30 inches or larger in diameter. Cary rules prohibit removing healthy trees of that size because the town considers them to be especially valuable.
The construction plan submitted to Cary is the most environmentally friendly of 18 variations studied by developers, said George Finch, a landscape architect hired by SAS.
Town Council members said they didn’t mind exempting the plan from Cary’s tree rules because the company is preserving 45 percent of existing vegetation and plans to replace the large trees elsewhere on its property.
Councilman Don Frantz said the plan “speaks volumes” about the company’s respect for nature.
“With a site of this size and magnitude, I don’t know how you couldn’t impact some (large) trees,” he said.
The SAS plan also calls for 575 parking spots, 30 percent fewer than required by Cary rules.
Town rules require one parking spot per 300 square feet of commercial building space, which equates to 826 parking spots for Building P.
The building doesn’t need that many parking spots, SAS representatives said, because part of the building isn’t office space and because its employees work flexible hours.
“I don’t think anyone knows SAS’s parking requirements better than SAS,” Councilman Ed Yerha said.
He said he worried, though, that exempting SAS from parking requirements might set a precedent.
“You’ve justified (the parking reduction) beautifully, but others may not,” Yerha said.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, who works for SAS as a computer programmer, said the company’s newer buildings have “ample” parking.
He and councilwoman Gale Adcock – SAS’s chief health officer – didn’t recuse themselves from the vote. They said they wouldn’t directly benefit from the plan.