By Jack Stubbs
Since Google’s founding in Menlo Park, Calif. in 1998, the technology behemoth has continued to expand relentlessly throughout the Bay Area region – indeed, throughout the rest of the world – as it continues to widen its scope of influence.
Currently headquartered at the 12-acre Googleplex campus in Mountain View, the company – and its parent company, Alphabet Inc. – clearly has no shortage of space. However, Google currently has another large-scale development in the works, which will further bolster its already-sizable footprint in Mountain View and beyond.
Google is currently working through the review and approvals process with the City of Mountain View and the East Whisman community to complete a large-scale endeavor called the Middlefield Park Master Plan, which will ultimately include up to 1,900 residential units, over 12 acres of public open space and around 50,000 square feet of public retail and community spaces. The project also features about three miles of walking and biking trails, according to the Middlefield Park Master Plan submitted by Google and the company’s project partner Lendlease, a development and construction company based in New York.
The timeline for the Middlefield Park project has been ongoing for several years now. In November 2019, the Mountain View City Council adopted the East Whisman Precise Plan, which called for the development of up to 5,000 new housing units. In September 2020, Google and LendLease submitted an application to the city of Mountain View for a Master Plan to remove the fourteen existing industrial and office buildings on the site and begin the community engagement and city review process.
As for the latest milestone, Google and Lendlease are continuing to work with the City and community through Master Plan review and approvals through 2022.
While Google as an entity is indeed large enough to encompass its own orbit and universe within Mountain View – and beyond – efforts are being made to ensure the ongoing project fits into the current and historical context of the city. The Middlefield Park Master Plan – the key tenets of which include housing, nature, sustainability, community and mobility – builds on the City of Mountain View’s East Whisman Precise Plan, a previous initiative launched a couple of years ago. In late 2019, the City Council adopted the East Whisman Precise Plan (the vision of which was to create a “complete community”) to implement the 2030 General Plan goals and policies for the area, which would allow new residential land uses, expanded commercial land uses, open spaces and multi-modal connectivity.
The General Plan identifies East Whisman as a “highly-sustainable, transit-oriented employment center with a diversity of land uses.” The new Precise Plan includes development standards, such as building setbacks and height limits, allowed land uses, urban design guidelines, locations for new public open space and other public improvements for the area, according to the project description on the City of Mountain View’s website.
Middlefield Park’s provision of between 1,675 and 1,900 new homes serves as a continuation of the tech giant’s efforts in solving the affordable housing crisis. In June 2019, the firm committed $1 billion to create at least 20,000 homes across the Bay Area over 10 years. 20 percent (335-380) of the units will be affordable at a range of below-market rates, and a wide range of housing types (including studios, one- two- and three-bedroom units) will be provided to accommodate a broad array of residents’ needs.
In terms of the proposed development’s incorporation of open and green spaces, the hope is that such features will be a defining characteristic of Middlefield Park. Just under 7.3 acres of Google-owned land are permanently dedicated to the City for public parks and recreation, with some of the proposed parks and plazas named Ellis Plaza and Walk, Maude Park, Canopy Walk and Gateway Park. There will also be just under three acres of privately-owned – but publicly-accessible – open space, which will house native, ecologically-diverse plant species.
Aligned with the East Whisman Precise Plan, goals around sustainability at Middlefield Park focus on carbon reduction and water savings. LEED Platinum is standard for all office and residential buildings; solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations will be included at all buildings; and mass timber structural systems will ideally be used to lower overall carbon emissions.
A hub for community activity and engagement, the hope is that the roughly 50,000 square feet of public and retail space include various community-facing elements. Around 30,000 square feet will be dedicated to street-level shops, dining, services and other uses, such as a grocery store, and about 20,000 square feet will be transformed into street-level community spaces, such as a satellite library or community meeting rooms.
With Middlefield Park, Google also hopes to enhance connectivity within and around the large-scale development. The complex is within a 10-minute walk of a VTA light rail station, and bike/pedestrian paths link Middlefield Park to Stevens Creek Trail and Bay Trail. More generally, the project is bounded by Highways 101, 237 and 85 and is also within a 15-minute bike or 10-minute transit ride to both Mountain View’s and Sunnyvale’s downtowns and Caltrain stations.
In addition to the recent planning developments that have brought Middlefield Park closer to completion – the last public community meeting was held in April 2022 – Google has been making its mark in Mountain View in other ways as well.
According to reporting by The Mercury News, Google in mid-December 2021 paid $73.5 million for a two-story office building – totaling around 60,000 square feet — at 1665 Charleston Road. The Class B property is right across the street from the Googleplex, Google’s corporate headquarters, as well as its Google B46, Google PLY1, PLY2 and PLY3 offices. The property is just off of State Route 101 and is near the Shoreline Athletic Fields, Moffett Field, and more. Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus, as well as NASA’s Ames Research Center, are also nearby.
Google is also working with Lendlease on Downtown West in San Jose, an 80-acre mixed-use project within the 250-acre Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP).