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Facebook's new Gehry campus changes more than its name

Social media company's expansion shapes future of Menlo Park's industrial district

Facebook invited 10 Bay Area "Instagrammers" to take pictures in the new Gehry building. See their photos.

By Sandy Brundage | Almanac Staff Writer

It's no longer "the Gehry building" – Facebook's newest Menlo Park office has been dubbed "MPK20" as employees started moving in last week. This is building number 20 in Menlo Park (MPK).

Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the single-floor, one room 433,555-square-foot west campus building sits at 1 Facebook Way (formerly a portion of Constitution Drive), across the street from the main east campus.

A pedestrian-bike tunnel runs underneath the Bayfront Expressway to connect the two campuses, and is also now open for business, according to the social media company.

"Our goal was to create the perfect engineering space for our teams to work together," CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page. "We wanted our space to create the same sense of community and connection among our teams that we try to enable with our services across the world"

To do this, he said, "we designed the largest open floor plan in the world – a single room that fits thousands of people. There are lots of small spaces where people can work together, and it's easy for people to move around and collaborate with anyone here."

Construction of the west campus started in September 2014 and was done to meet LEED Gold environmental standards, according to Facebook. Design features include an insulated roof to reduce heating and cooling costs, and etched windows to deter birds from crashing into the panes.

The building, which is on stilts with parking underneath, is expected to eventually hold 2,800 engineers, but they won't all arrive at once. "It will take us some time to grow into the space," Facebook sources said.

It's also not done: "The building itself is pretty simple and isn't fancy," Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. "That's on purpose. We want our space to feel like a work in progress. When you enter our buildings, we want you to feel how much left there is to be done in our mission to connect the world."

The outside looks fancier than the inside: The rooftop was turned into a 9-acre garden complete with a half-mile walking trail, outdoor work spaces and 400 trees, according to Facebook.

Right now, Cafe Full Circle is providing sustenance on the new campus. Eventually MPK20 will feature a St. Frank Coffee, an offshoot of the San Francisco-based company, on the roof, along with a juice bar, and a grilled cheese and potato bar. A Singaporean cafe with noodles and a chicken BBQ eatery will round out the offerings.

Mr. Gehry described the building as a "remarkably human environment," and said he was very proud of how the collaborative project turned out. "It is not a grand design statement and it has a toughness and a rawness that reminds me of the work I was doing in the early part of my career," he said in a written statement.

Real estate portfolio

The property for the west campus was far from Facebook's last acquisition in Menlo Park: The company bought a 59-acre property in 2014 from TE Connectivity on Constitution Drive near the corner of Chilco Street and the Bayfront Expressway, and then in February of this year, picked up the 56-acre Prologis site, located on Willow Road just south of the Bayshore Expressway.

Mr. Gehry is also designing the TE Connectivity site, although Facebook is starting small with that property – currently it's converting one of nine buildings on the site from a 185,000-square-foot warehouse to a general office building with amenities that may include a cafe and fitness center.

What will appear on the Prologis property remains to be seen, although Facebook representatives tried to make clear that the vision doesn't include 8-story buildings after Belle Haven residents expressed concern during the city's discussion of the zoning update underway for the M2 industrial district, which encompasses Facebook's Menlo Park campuses.

Representatives of PlaceWorks, the consultant facilitating the zoning changes, said that depictions of 8-story buildings in preliminary studies were meant only to illustrate what that height would look like.

Employee housing remains a key focus for Facebook. During an M2 study session on March 31, the consultant estimated that 4,500 units of new housing will be built within the district, with 1,500 units slated for employee and intern housing on Facebook's east campus, and 2,000 units on Willow Road and 1,000 along Jefferson Drive for the broader population.

Then there's Anton Menlo, a joint endeavor between developer St. Anton Partners and Facebook to build a 394-unit apartment complex at 3639 Haven Ave. Situated on 10 acres off Marsh Road, plans for the $120 million complex include a convenience store, pub, bike repair shop and dog daycare.

The complex includes 37 affordable housing units, 15 subsidized by Facebook. Construction permits were issued on March 2 and building should finish by mid-2016, according to the city.

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