Facebook Advances its Plans for 1,500 Housing Units in Menlo Park

Menlo Park, Facebook, Willow Road, Hamilton Avenue, Menlo Science and Technology Park, San Francisco Foundation, Facebook’s Catalyst Housing Fund, Mid-Peninsula High School, Pacific Biosciences, Dumbarton Corridor
Outside at Facebook HQ in Menlo Park. Image courtesy of Facebook.

By Michele Chandler

Talk about the consummate employee benefit: Menlo Park-based Facebook is closer to offering housing, as the social networking company’s workforce in Silicon Valley grows.

Facebook, which started the effort three years ago, is now holding information sessions about its proposal to replace an existing office park with a minimum of 1,500 housing units—including 15 percent slated to be priced below market-rate—as part of a new residential-retail-office development in Menlo Park along Willow Road at the intersection of Hamilton Avenue.

All housing at Facebook’s Willow Village complex, slated for the site of the Menlo Science and Technology Park, will be available for Facebook employees and others. Facebook has proposed constructing the development in four phases, starting with one-third of the offices and housing units, as well as the retail spaces, opening in 2021.

A recent alliance has given Facebook additional resources to create affordable housing, to be available to its workers and the public at large, as the region faces a housing crunch. Earlier this week, Facebook announced it had teamed up with San Francisco Foundation, which will contribute $1 million to Facebook’s Catalyst Housing Fund, established to build and protect affordable housing near the tech firm’s campus.

The Willow campus will create “an integrated, mixed-use village” that provides needed housing, services, transit services and office space, according to Facebook Vice President Global Facilities and Real Estate John Tenanes.

The world’s largest social media company acquired the 56-acre park, which is located immediately south of its current Menlo Park headquarters, for about $400 million in 2015, according to media reports. The property is located on the south side of Willow Road, bounded by Mid-Peninsula High School to the west, Willow Road to the north, the Dumbarton rail corridor to the east and Pacific Biosciences to the south.

The proposed Willow Village development includes 1.75 million square feet of office space, along with 126,500 square feet of retail space including a grocery store and pharmacy, according to the city’s planning officials.

A 200-room hotel and 18 acres of open space—just under half of which would be publicly accessible—are planned, as well. A visitor center at the corner of Willow Road and the Dumbarton Corridor would also be included in Willow Village.

The company’s formal redevelopment bid for the 59-acre site came in July 2017, when Peninsula Innovation Partners, LLC submitted an application on Facebook’s behalf to comprehensively redevelop the office park. The park’s address spans several areas, including 1350-1390 Willow Road, 925-1098 Hamilton Avenue and 1005-1275 Hamilton Court.

OMA New York is handling design for the proposed development, Facebook said. The development would be completed in 2025.

Tenanes told the Planning Commission last month that the company plans to be able to accommodate 35,000 employees at its various Menlo Park properties east of U.S. 101 by 2028, including the proposed offices and new office building associated with the Bohannon Companies’ Menlo Gateway development. That would more than double the 15,000 Facebook employees now working in the city.

Menlo Park officials said they’re devising a review process, tentative project schedule, required land use entitlements and appropriate level of environmental review. The Menlo Park City Council will hold a study session on the proposed redevelopment of the site at its meeting of March 27.

Facebook’s site, where its headquarters in the city has been located since 2011, today includes offices, research and development space and warehouse areas.

“The site currently contains approximately 1 million square feet of commercial uses. The proposed project would result in a net increase of approximately 1 million square feet of commercial uses, for a total of approximately of 2 million square feet of commercial uses at the project site,” the city’s web site said.

Facebook is also holding its own meetings to give details about its development proposal. The company has announced meetings about the project that will take place on March 10th from 2–4 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Senior Center at 560 Bell St. in East Palo Alto and on March 22nd from 7–9 p.m. at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St. in Menlo Park.

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