By Meghan Hall
Plans for Willow Village were first discussed almost four years ago. It was one of several ways that Menlo Park, Calif.-based Facebook sought to provide workforce housing closer to its headquarters as its employee base in the Bay Area continued to grow. Facebook submitted its initial plans in July of 2017, before submitting a first set of revisions a year ago, in February of 2018. Last week, Peninsula Innovation Partners, LLC and Signature Development Group submitted updated site plans on behalf of Facebook. The newest iterations of the project redesigned the layout and footprints of the office buildings, increased the amount of neighborhood retail from 126,500 square feet to 200,000 square feet and expanded the size of its proposed boutique hotel from 200 to 250 rooms.
“The guiding principle for the Willow Park Village Master Plan is to build a robust community through a new, cohesive, master-planned, mixed-use development that integrates into and complements the adjacent Belle Haven neighborhood, nearby neighborhoods in East Palo Alto and greater Menlo Park as a whole,” said Facebook in its plans for the 59-acre site.
Other modifications to the plans include a larger, 4-acre community park with playground and recreation fields along Willow Road, where open space was previously proposed to be distributed throughout the park. An addition of a separate, publicly accessible dog park and further integration of the office campus with the project’s mixed-use components are also a part of the updates. However, one aspect of the development remained the same — the amount of housing and office space — which is still at 1,500 housing units and 1.75 million square feet.
The site, located, at a range of addresses — 1350-1390 Willow Road, 925-1098 Hamilton Ave. and 1005-1275 Hamilton Ct. — currently contains 1,000,000 square feet of commercial uses, and the proposed project would result in a net increase of 1,000,000 square feet of commercial uses — excluding the hotel — for about 2,000,000 square feet of commercial space at the site.
The property was originally purchased in 2015 for about $400 million, according to previous reporting by The Registry. The site is located just south of Facebook’s current Menlo Park headquarters and is bounded by Mid-Peninsula High School to the west, Willow Rd. to the north, the Dumbarton rail corridor to the east and Pacific Biosciences to the south.
Facebook anticipates that it will construct Willow Village in three phases, one phase fewer than the four phases it had laid out in its 2018 plans. Phase One, which consists of the southernmost portion of the site, is expected to include 600 residential units, including 15 percent below market rate units, the four-acre park and community center and 10,000 square feet of retail. In its Campus District, construction would begin on 600,000 square feet of office and employee-serving amenity spaces, including a 30,000 square foot Health and Wellness Center and 15,000 square feet of retail on Main Street. The south garage, which is planned to include 1,250 parking spaces, would also be built during Phase One.
When it released new plans in 2018, Facebook had hoped to complete the initial phase by 2021; however, no new timeline has been released alongside the updated plans. A community meeting will be held Thursday, February 28, to further inform the community of the revised plans. Beyond that, Facebook will need to secure several land use entitlements, including a conditional development permit, a development agreement and an environmental impact review.
By the time Willow Park is complete, Facebook plans to accommodate around 35,000 employees in Menlo Park properties east of U.S. 101 by 2028, roughly doubling the nearly 15,000 employees the company has in the city today, said Facebook’s Vice President of Global Facilities and Real Estate John Tenanes at a Planning Commission meeting back in the winter of 2018.