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Red Hat's growing. How many people can it fit in downtown Raleigh?

Bu.ku restaurant, in the Red Hat building's lower level at the corner of Davie and Wilmington streets in Raleigh, N.C. is moving out. Photographed Friday, July 6, 2018.
Bu.ku restaurant, in the Red Hat building's lower level at the corner of Davie and Wilmington streets in Raleigh, N.C. is moving out. Photographed Friday, July 6, 2018. ehyman@newsobserver.com

There's beaucoup space in Red Hat's downtown Raleigh tower, but the open-source software company is starting to feel a bit squeezed.

When Red Hat moved its headquarters from Centennial Campus to the tower in 2013, it brought 600 employees and had plans to add another 540 over nine years. Five years later, the building now hosts anywhere from 2,000 to 2,200 Red Hatters on any given day, depending partly on how many people elect to work from home, said Allison Showalter, a Red Hat spokeswoman.

As a result, the company is now having to make some changes to find space for all its workers.

Its most visible move has been the recent decision to ask Bu.ku restaurant, in the building's lower level at the corner of Davie and Wilmington streets, to move out. (Bu.ku is headed to Cary after the end of the year.)

Parallel to that, an in-house evaluation is spurring some office shuffles upstairs. "We're doing some reconfiguring on several floors to allow for more space for associates," Showalter said.

For now, "we're not planning to expand into any additional space outside of Bu.ku," she added, noting that there are other restaurants and offices on the first floor in spaces that Red Hat isn't using.

When Red Hat moved downtown from N.C. State University's Centennial Campus it swapped 188,000 feet of space for a tower with 352,944 square feet of heated area, according to Wake County tax records.

The tower was once the headquarters of Progress Energy, which based about 1,050 employees there before merging with Duke Energy.

There isn't a clear answer at the moment on what the upper limit on occupancy is, as that will "depend on how many desks we fit in" during a reconfiguration that's making use of the breathing room the original floor layouts gave the company, Showalter said.

Also, there are "going to be a lot of employees who don't have a permanent seat but do come into the tower" to work from time to time as the company hotels desk space, she said, referring to a trend in offices where workers don't have assigned seating but rather reserve a desk for the day.

Red Hat leaders and staff nonetheless know there's "definitely a squeeze happening" and that there's a a finite number of people they can accommodate in the headquarters, she said.

"Eventually, we will run out of space," Showalter said. "There is no plan at this point about what will happen when that happens. There's a lot of discussion going on right now and there's no answers yet."

Red Hat has more than 95 offices worldwide, with about a quarter of those being in the U.S.

It has major software-engineering groups in San Francisco and Boston, its public-policy operation is in Tyson's Corner, Virginia, near the nation's capital, and the Raleigh headquarter houses central-office functions like the personnel staff, marketing and the Red Hat legal team.

Most of the other offices have a mix of sales staff, customer support people and software developers. A branch in Durham houses people who work on its Ansible development and networking automation package.

But none of the other offices "come close to how many people we have in the tower," Showalter said.

Ray Gronberg: 919-419-6648, @rcgronberg
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