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July 27, 2017

Google grabs dozens of Sunnyvale properties, signaling a major expansion

The Mercury News

George Avalos

SUNNYVALE - Google has bought roughly four dozen properties in Sunnyvale with a combined value of around $800 million, setting the stage for what may be another major expansion of the tech titan's Silicon Valley operations.

The properties are located on 13 different streets in a Sunnyvale business area known as Moffett Park, and the move comes as Google also explores a plan to build a massive tech campus in downtown San Jose.

The buildings Google has bought provide combined space of at least 2.3 million square feet, according to this news organization's review of numerous property brochures and flyers for all of the properties. Google would not disclose its plans for the properties.

"This is a huge land grab," said Chad Leiker, a first vice president with Kidder Mathews, a commercial real estate brokerage. "It's a major repositioning of what's going on in Sunnyvale."

More than 11,000 Google employees potentially could work in these buildings, if the search giant fills the existing structures without dramatically altering the properties' configurations.

Yet some of the lots potentially could be cleared away and replaced with buildings of higher densities, if that's Google's inclination. Several lots have buildings that cover only half or even less of the parcels.

The Sunnyvale properties contain dozens of aging research, office and industrial buildings, not far from the company's Mountain View headquarters and near office towers the firm has leased in recent years.

"They certainly have a large footprint in Sunnyvale now," said Phil Mahoney, a Santa Clara-based vice chairman of Newmark Cornish & Carey, a commercial realty brokerage. "They simply need more space."

Google bought at least 45 parcels in Sunnyvale on July 25 from several different sellers, according to this publication's review of Santa Clara County property records. Those sellers are connected to affiliates of CB Richard Ellis, a commercial realty brokerage.

Property records show that the entities linked to CB Richard Ellis began a few years ago to buy the properties that Google eventually wound up with this week. Multiple transactions occurred in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, the county filings disclosed.

"We have purchased the parcels," Katherine Williams, a Google spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Mountain View-based Google, though, didn't disclose future plans for the properties.

"That is all the information we have to share at this time," Williams said.

Some of the buildings are four decades old. The aging state of some of the structures suggests more than a few might be bulldozed to clear the way for top-flight buildings.

"A lot of these buildings will be gone," Leiker said.

These transactions are happening at the same time that Google is busy with a vast land assembly in downtown San Jose near the Diridon transit station.

Either through its development partner, Trammell Crow, or through direct negotiations with the city of San Jose, Google has begun to collect dozens of properties that it envisions for a campus totaling 6 million to 8 million square feet, enough space for 15,000 to 20,000 employees.

Google also has sketched plans for big expansions in Mountain View, at and near its headquarters on the north side of Highway 101.

"Google obviously has grand plans that we can't even fathom," Leiker said. "They are interested in Mountain View, Sunnyvale and downtown San Jose. Who knows what else is next for Google?"

Google's land grabs show Silicon Valley remains attractive for fast-growing tech businesses, said Stephen Levy, director of the Palo Alto-based Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

"You look at Google, Apple, LinkedIn, Facebook," Levy said. "All the evidence shows that big tech companies are going to continue to expand here."

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