Facebook scales back village project

An illustration provided by Facebook of its 56-acre Willow Village project. This rendering was provided before the size reduction was announced yesterday.

BY EMILY MIBACH 
Daily Post Staff Writer

Menlo Park’s largest development proposal just got a little smaller.

Facebook announced yesterday that it is reducing the office space in its Willow Village project from 1.75 million square feet to 1.25 million square feet.

This means Facebook will have 6,950 employees at the complex once it is completed, according to the announcement.

This announcement of the reduction of office space comes amid a push by tech workers to work from home once the stay-at-home order is lifted. A survey by CNBC and SurveyMonkey revealed that 25% of the tech sector wants to stay at home once the order is lifted.

Facebook said earlier this month that employees can work from home until the end of the year.

However, the reduction in office space will bring a more “balanced approach” to the Willow Village project, Facebook said.

“Our conversations with neighbors, City Council members and Planning Commissioners have been critical to ensure Willow Village is part of the solution to many of the challenges our community faces,” said Mike Ghielmetti, president of Signature Development Group, which is helping Facebook develop Willow Village.

He said the new plan “reflects community calls” for balanced development.

The project will still include 1,735 apartments, with 320 of them being set aside for low-income earners.

However, with 6,950 new employees working at Willow Village, there would have to be 4,633 homes built in order to house all of the new workers, using the metric of 1.5 people per apartment.

Residents and city officials have been calling for Facebook to balance the number of jobs the project creates with the housing that’s part of the project. Council in December asked the consultant preparing the environmental impact report to consider the option of requiring Facebook to build as many homes as many workers will be coming to the project.

At a Dec. 17 meeting, councilwoman Betsy Nash pointed out that the previous two Facebook campuses approved by Menlo Park City Council produced jobs that required 3,257 new homes.

“We had zero built,” Nash said.

In addition to the reduced office space, other changes to the project include building a grocery store earlier in the first of the project’s three phases of building if approved. Initially, it was proposed that the grocery store would be built during the final phase of building.

A new 2.1-acre park has been added which would go over Willow Road as a walkway, into Willow Village, has also been added.
The project is currently undergoing environmental review, which is expected to be completed next year, according to Facebook.

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