Willow Campus in Menlo Park

Facebook to build ‘mixed-use village’ in Silicon Valley

Image credit: Dreamstime

The tech giant has laid out plans to build 1500 homes near its Silicon Valley headquarters, to addres desperate shortage of housing in the San Francisco Bay area.

The growth of Google, Facebook and other major tech companies in the past two decades has put enormous strain on the housing sector in the region, with average house prices and rent rising, and employees now facing longer commutes as the companies expand, drawing more people to the area.

Some Silicon Valley tech companies have responded to this crisis by offering company-branded buses with Wi-Fi to commuters, and cash incentives for workers to move closer to the offices; Facebook is offering $10,000. Despite these perks, employees still complain about the lack of affordable housing. According to real estate data site Rent Jungle, the average monthly rent in the city has more than tripled since Facebook moved there in 2011.

“The problem with Silicon Valley is you don’t have enough supply to keep up with the demand,” commented Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic, a real estate research firm.

Facebook is planning the development of ‘Willow Campus’ in Menlo Park, to which it moved its headquarters in 2011. The city, a few miles south of San Francisco, is among the most educated in the US, with nearly 70 per cent of its residents holding degrees. Facebook is Menlo Park’s top employer, with more than 7000 employees.

“Our goal for the Willow Campus is to create an integrated, mixed-use village that will provide much-needed services, housing and transit solutions as well as office space,” said John Tenanes, Facebook’s vice-president for global facilities, in a public statement.

“Part of our vision is to create a neighbourhood centre that provides long-needed community services.” He added that the density of the development could also encourage investment in helpful transit projects.

The Facebook village will have 1.75 million square feet (162,500m2) of office space, 125,000 square feet (11,600m2) of retail space – including grocery shop and pharmacy – and a public plaza. 1500 housing units will be open to employees and other residents, with 225 of the houses being offered at below market rates.

The plan is currently in review, and the process is expected to take two years.

Kirsten Keith, Mayor of Menlo Park, has said that there are concerns about whether Facebook’s proposal could increase traffic in the city, although its plans fit into the city’s long-term plan for development.

Last month, it was reported that Alphabet Inc, Google’s parent company, has made similar moves, buying 300 apartments in the Silicon Valley area for short-term employee housing.

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