Google announced on Tuesday a proposal to build more than a million square feet of offices and up to 1,850 new homes in the East Whisman area of Mountain View, creating an entire neighborhood in the center of a sprawling office park.
Dubbed the Middlefield Park Master Plan, the local tech giant is seeking to transform 40 acres centered near the Middlefield VTA light rail station into a mixed-use hub that ups the density on office development while making room for thousands of future residents. East Whisman was rezoned late last year to allow for housing and higher buildings, clearing the way for Google's complete redesign of the area.
Google is proposing to build roughly 1.3 million square feet of offices across five new buildings on the northern side of the village, located along Ellis Street, Logue Avenue and Clyde Avenue. To the south will be six residential buildings totaling anywhere from 1,675 to 1,850 new homes, likely a combination of ownership and rental units. Unlike the mostly single-story offices that dominate the site today, building heights are now permitted to exceed 95 feet.
More than half of Google's 40-acre property is dominated by surface street parking, which will be replaced by two parking garages. The extra space means that more than 12 acres of the master plan can be devoted to parks and open space, largely consolidated in a centrally located public park and along the light rail tracks.
Though the project would result in as much as 650,000 square feet of net new office space, the primary objective is to construct at least 1,675 new homes for the area, said Google real estate director Michael Tymoff. The transit-oriented development will be led by the housing component, he said, marking the company's first chance to deliver residential development at scale in the city.
"We really see it as taking another step forward with our housing commitment," Tymoff said.
Last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company would be responding to the Bay Area housing crisis by investing $1 billion to help build a minimum of 20,000 new homes. The large majority of that commitment, $750 million, would come in the form of Google converting its commercial land holdings into residential uses, which is part of the rationale behind the Middlefield Park design.
Though Google's recently approved projects are all office-only tech parks -- including Charleston East, Bay View and Landings -- the company has pivoted in recent years toward large, mixed-use development that aims to put offices next door to thousands of homes. Along with East Whisman, Google is proposing to build a mixed-use village with up to 5,900 homes in its San Jose Downtown West plan. And Mountain View's North Bayshore tech park, currently the home of most of Google's office growth, could soon have 5,700 new homes.
The proposal's mix of rental and for-sale housing units are predominantly in the form of stacked flats that can maximize the number of residential units in the area, Tymoff said. The project would include 20% affordable housing units, which, depending on how many units are built, would create between 335 and 370 deed-restricted units for low-income households.
Google will be taking a hands-off approach to the housing at Middlefield Park, however, leaving the design and construction to another company, Lendlease. In a statement, Lendlease Project Director Andrew Chappell said the housing will be focused on creating "people-centered" communities that benefit both residents and the community at large.
"We are eager to move forward in collaboration with Google, delivering much needed housing in the Bay Area," Chappell said. "We are confident that we can turn the Middlefield Park master plan into a reality."
Google's proposal is in the early stages of the development, and many details have yet to be fleshed out. Tymoff said the individual buildings have yet to be designed, but will predominantly be low- to mid-rise buildings up to 12 stories tall. One factor keeping building heights down is Moffett Field, with the Federal Aviation Administration capping the project's height limits at 120 feet, he said.
In November, the city adopted the blueprint for future development in East Whisman through the East Whisman Precise Plan, a guiding document that opened the door for higher density and housing in an area considered ripe for redevelopment. The plan allowed for more office development, but only on the condition that it also came with a commensurate increase in housing.
The jobs-housing balance requires developers to preserve a ratio of 3 housing units for every 1,000 square feet of office space that gets built in East Whisman, leaving it up to developers to negotiate deals with one another or dedicate land for future homes.
In Google's case, no such deal-making will be needed. Tymoff said the proposal's ratio of jobs and housing within the Middlefield Park Master Plan precisely matches what the city requires.
"The amount of net new office would go up or down proportionately so that we're always in compliance," he said.
The project also won't have to pitch in any park fees for shortchanging the city on park space, which is often the case in newly proposed housing projects. The 12 acres of primarily public open space satisfies the city's park requirements.
Outside of housing and offices, Google's proposal calls for 30,000 square feet of retail space as well as 20,000 square feet of flexible space for "civic" uses and events. Tymoff said those could be for recreational fields, an aquatic center or space for events like birthday parties and community meetings. The hope is to create a neighborhood that, on its own, is mostly self sufficient.
"It's certainly one of the ideas in the Precise Plan to create a mixed-use neighborhood where a lot of the needs and services are within walking distance from where you live and work," Tymoff said.