Pop the cork and pour the champagne. On March 12, the City of Kirkland and Google Kirkland renewed their wedding vows by announcing a 5-acre campus expansion, capped with a 180,000-square-foot office building as long as two football fields. Home to about 1,000 new employees, the expansion will be next to the existing campus, across the city-owned railroad corridor. As for design, expect the “whimsical, stimulating environment we pride ourselves in,” said Chee Chew, vice president of engineering and site director for Google Kirkland.
Google is “doubling down” on its investment in Kirkland, said Chew. It’s also a vote of confidence in the entire region. People who work at Google Kirkland live and work in the entire area. There is a great pool of talent, a great community and a great place where people want to live, Chew said. And the love goes both ways. He said, “We clearly enjoy the support of Kirkland and Washington State.”
There’s a big incentive to keep Google here and happy — Google generates a $3.5 billion impact to our region and state, said Kirkland Mayor Joan McBride. “We are committed to keeping Kirkland one of the most livable places in the world … and a place where Google will continue to want to be,” McBride said.
This will be quite the change from the couple of hundred employees that moved into Kirkland in 2004. The site is zoned light industrial, so buildings can cover 80 percent of the site. In general, the proposed office building is one big “L” shape with an atrium at the bend. There will be two levels of offices above and two levels of parking below. Materials will match the existing campus. There will be a new road and pedestrian connections.
The companies behind the project are SRM Development of Spokane and DLR Group. Design plans are expected to be delivered to City hall by July 1. Construction could begin as early as Jan. 1, 2014. The site could open as early as 2015.
Gov. Jay Inslee joined the celebration, saying: “This is a place to innovate.” Inslee praised the leadership and innovation of Google’s goal to achieve a LEED Gold standard — and possibly the higher LEED platinum — for its campus expansion. From construction to decommission, LEED-certified buildings are environmentally friendly, meaning they typically save energy, save water, use more local materials, use more recycled materials, use less toxic materials and produce less waste.
That’s quite an outcome considering the site is a former “brown field” – a toxic clean-up site from previous industrial work. The site is now an example of how the environment and the economy can work together.
“I am very excited about it,” said Bonnie McLeod of McLeod Insurance in downtown Kirkland. “I think it is a vast improvement to take a polluted site and turn it into an economic powerhouse.”
This a “game changer” for Kirkland, said Bruce Wynn, executive director of the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce: “This is like shooting a flare up over Lake Washington that Kirkland continues to attract and retain innovative, creative tech companies. We believe that Kirkland offers something that no one else in Washington State can offer — a great place to live, a great place to work.”
Despite the expansion, Google Kirkland will remain the third-largest Google office campus, home primarily to engineers who work in all aspects of the company. Headquarters at Mountain View, Calif., is by far the largest site. The second-largest site, in New York, just bought a company of 2,000 people.
SRM of Spokane, the force behind the project, is in the process of buying the property from Ultra Group and expects the deal to close in August. Because the City of Kirkland bought the railroad corridor that runs between the campus with intentions to create a transportation corridor, it made the corridor easier for SRM to work with.
“We did it. We are thrilled to be here,” said Dave Tomson of SRM of Spokane. “It is a great day for SRM. It is a great day of Kirkland. It is a great day for Google.”
Tomson said he is aware of community concerns; it will be, after all, a major construction site. “We will do what it takes to make this project go as smoothly as possible as possible,” he said.
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