By Stephen M. Lepore for Dailymail.Com
01:48 23 Apr 2023, update 01:56 23 Apr 2023
Google is pausing construction on its planned 80-acre campus in San Jose and has no plans to resume in the “near future” as it begins a series of layoffs and cost-cutting measures.
Google’s village, named Downtown West, would have included shops, restaurants, a hotel, and cultural and entertainment centers, as well as potentially Google’s 25,000-employee campus.
The company gutted its campus development team – which they said would have a $19 billion economic impact – earlier this year in a series of downsizing efforts as the economy deteriorates for big tech.
Rising interest rates and fears that the country was on the verge of a recession forced the cuts.
The plan was to innovate on the site before the end of 2023, but it was cut short after worries about delays earlier in the year, with no plans to start again.
San Jose board member Omar Torres, who represents the area, was concerned about the rumours.
“We all knew originally that it would be a long-term plan,” Torres said in February. “But yeah, it’s really concerning that a lot of the money comes in when the cranes are in the air.”
CNBC reports that sources are “optimistic” that the campus will eventually be built, it may need to be scaled back.
LendLease, the project’s lead developer, made 67 layoffs in February, including community engagement managers.
In a statement, a LendLease spokesperson said they remain “committed to building thriving mixed-use communities in the Bay Area, including Google developments”, and still have a “team important to help deliver these communities”.
In March, Google removed campus building updates from its website.
Two months earlier, the company had announced the cut of 12,000 jobs, representing about 6% of its workforce, to cope with slowing sales growth following record growth in its workforce.
Google finance chief Ruth Porat penned a rare company-wide email detailing how the tech giant is introducing measures to cut employee services in a bid to cut expenses.
The company’s goal for 2023 is to “achieve sustainable cost savings through improved speed and efficiency.”
Porat detailed how Google is reducing everything from fitness classes for its employees to office basics to staplers and duct tape, while reducing the frequency of laptop replacements for its employees.
Google submitted its initial request to the San Jose Planning Division on October 10, 2019.
“We embrace this vision not because it’s Google’s, but because it encompasses the aspirations of a vibrant, vibrant downtown that our community has long had as generations of San Joseans have sought to create a regional destination that reflects our authentic and diverse character,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in 2021, according to Mercury News.
“Especially amidst all the challenges of this pandemic, I am grateful for the continued collaboration between Google and city staff to enable our community to benefit from thousands of jobs, affordable apartments, retail and vibrant restaurants, public plazas and park spaces.
“We’re excited about this next step in our project, which incorporates feedback from thousands of people over the past two years and provides another opportunity for community input,” added Alexa Arena, Google’s chief development officer for San Jose, at the time of the plan unveiled nearly two years ago.
The Downtown West area of San Jose was to cover 80 acres, of which 55 can be developed. Of this number, 30 acres would be for housing and public spaces.
As part of this plan, Google has agreed to work with the city to ensure that 25% – 4,000 – of homes in the Diridon station area will be affordable.
“We continue to hear that housing and preserving affordability is a priority for San Jose, and our proposal provides more affordable housing, pathways to employment, and community spaces for San Joseans” , said Arena.
The development was also asked to blend into the surrounding neighborhoods instead of acting as a stand-alone tech campus.
“Downtown West is designed to be a real part of the city, as opposed to a traditional corporate campus,” said Laura Crescimano, founder of urban studio SITELAB, lead urban designer on the project.
“The draft standards and design guidelines released today set the roadmap for a resilient and connected Downtown West.”
And the historic buildings and natural features of the area also needed to be incorporated into the plan.
“Our team worked with Google to build on the uniqueness of the location to deliver a place where city life and nature can co-exist,” Crescimano said.
“We brought together new and historic buildings, opportunities for arts and culture, playful spaces and moments of respite along the creek.”
According to the draft environmental impact plan filed in 2021, the project would not create net additions of greenhouse gases.
The company said the new buildings they will develop will be almost 100% electric and that 65% of trips will involve public transport, cycling and walking.
The plan included the ability for Downtown West to generate 7.8 megawatts of on-site solar power as well as having its own local microgrid.
Google’s plan has been welcomed by city officials who say the “city within a city” will be of huge benefit to residents.
“This is the next level of development for San Jose,” said Scott Knies at the start of 2021, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
“You have the housing, the affordable housing, and certainly the offices are there. But you also have the extraordinary combination of open spaces and cultural uses that makes it truly unique.
“It’s like a city within the city,” Knies added. ‘Downtown West will not be a forest of high-rise buildings. It’s damn impressive.
“At a time when so much in our world is on pause due to COVID, it’s heartening to know that San Jose’s most important long-term urban development project is on track and reaching a key milestone.” with the filings, deputy city manager Kim Walesh said.
The project has not been without criticism, however, as some residents fear it will displace working families and communities of color amid the pandemic.
“The pandemic has made the community’s greatest concerns about this project – preventing displacement, adding affordable housing and ensuring quality jobs for working families and communities of color – even more critical,” said Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign manager for Silicon Valley Rising who are again fighting the plan.