Saturday, July 08, 2017

The New Company Town

The American company town reached its heyday between Reconstruction and the 1920's. The lack of basic services across the nation's empty expanses necessitated that businesses create schools, stores, and churches for their workers; the number of company towns reached an estimated peak of 2,500 about a century ago, after which the automobile and rising affluence reduced the importance of living close to one's employer.

Here in the Bay Area the original raison d'ĂȘtre---providing basic services---for company towns had vanished long ago; nevertheless, company towns are being carved out in existing, highly developed cities.

Google's planned 1.2 million sq. ft. campus (Verge)
Google dominates Mountain View (pop. 80,000):
At a January 22nd, 2013 meeting, Google's VP of real estate David Radcliffe gave the city council something of an ultimatum. "We can either grow up, taking the buildings we have now and making them bigger and denser, or we can sprawl out in a continued march through neighboring business parks and communities."

The company has bought or leased a total of nearly 2 million square feet since that meeting, including giant parcels west, south, and east of the company's traditional North Bayshore haunts.
Facebook's Anton Menlo apartments
Facebook is building a $120 million complex in Menlo Park (pop. 33,000):
The social network said this week it is working with a local developer to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices. Called Anton Menlo, the 630,000 square-foot rental property will include everything from a sports bar to a doggy day care.

One of Facebook's corporate goals is to take care of as many aspects of its employees lives as possible. They don't have to worry about transportation—there's a bus for that. Laundry and dry cleaning? Check. Hairstylists, woodworking classes, bike maintenance. Check.
And then there's Apple's "spaceship" headquarters in Cupertino (pop. 61,000):
Steve Jobs' vision (Wired photo)
Everything in this building is the best. The toroid glass of the roof curves scientifically to shed rainwater....Of course, it only has 9,000 parking spaces, but that’s supposed to encourage people to take an Apple shuttle to work. And once they arrive, they’re not going to want to leave. The fitness center has a climbing wall with pre-distressed stone. The concrete edges of the parking lot walls are rounded. The fire suppression systems come from yachts. Craftspeople harvested the wood paneling at the exact time of year the late Steve Jobs demanded—mid-winter—so the sap content wouldn’t be ruinously high.
Apple and Google (Alphabet) are the two most valuable companies in the world; Facebook is #7 and rising. For the sake of the 21st-century company towns that they are building, here's hoping that these companies stay valuable for a long, long time. (Term for the kiddies to look up: white elephant).

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