News

Google buys former home of the Pacific Press

Historic buildings currently home to Microsoft division

Google's newest real estate purchase in Mountain View is not only home to a division of rival Microsoft, it is also one of the most historic sites in the city.

In April, Google purchased a 100-year-old campus along the railroad tracks at Shoreline Boulevard and Villa Street. From 1904 to 1983 the campus was home to the Pacific Press, the publishing arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The purchase of the 171,000-square-foot campus is perhaps fitting because the Pacific Press was once a major employer in the city, just as Google is now. The Pacific Press was Mountain View's answer to Palo Alto's new Stanford University, an effort to bring "an institution of fine qualities" to settle in what was then a town of 800 people.

With this purchase, valued at over $63 million, Google now owns or leases 59 properties in Mountain View, according to recent news and 2010 records from the county tax assessor's office. The space is necessary because "2011 will be our biggest hiring year in company history," said Dan Hoffman, real estate director for Google, in a statement. "We're excited to continue growing in Mountain View and strengthening our relationship with the community."

Much of the campus, now called "The Courtyard," continues to house a division of Microsoft, which shocked some city officials. Google has already cornered Microsoft in Mountain View's office park north of Highway 101, purchasing even small properties near Microsoft's North Bayshore campus, including the home of The Pear Theater. Meanwhile Microsoft has considered leaving Mountain View several times, said one city official.

In 2009, previous owner Metzler North America had proposed adding a 90,000-square-foot building and a four-story parking garage to allow Microsoft expansion on the site. City Council members had allowed city staff to begin studying that proposal as part of the city's general plan update.

A Google spokesperson said he could not announce whether Google would pursue such plans for expanding the campus. But he could say that Google would use the historic buildings "in a way that doesn't harm the building or alter the building in a way that would take away the historic significance of it." But some changes maybe made to enhance the "campus feel" there.

An important thread in city history

"I love the buildings, and wholeheartedly support their preservation for their unique historical value and beauty," said council member Laura Macias in an email. Metzler's proposal "seemed like a good way to keep the old buildings but add to overall density if really needed."

The current buildings were built in 1907, the 1940s and in 1985, when it was turned into an office campus.

The Pacific Press first built on the site in 1904. Mountain View successfully lured the Pacific Press away from Oakland by donating 5 acres of land. A local bank offered a $50,000 loan with "no strings attached."

The Pacific Press is the publishing arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, and with as many as 275 employees in the 1970s, the neighborhood west of Shoreline Boulevard became known as "the Adventist side of town."

It wasn't just the free land that was attractive, but to get "back to the land" and "away from the demoralizing influences of these large cities," according to one account.

The operation got off to a rough start. Shortly after opening, the 1906 earthquake reduced much of the new construction to rubble. And while the press was heroically put back into service a few days later to print the church's "Signs of the Times" newspaper, in three months the place would burn down completely in a mysterious fire. The events were seen as a sign from God that the press should focus solely on religious publications.

The Pacific Press' output was astonishing for a non-profit operation, publishing 640,000 pages every hour and turning out 10,000 books a day in 1974, including 11 freight car loads of "The Desire of Ages," a biography of Christ.

The Pacific Press left Mountain View in 1983 for Nampa, Idaho where the cost of living would be more affordable for new employees.

"We can foresee quite a few people retiring in the years to come," said Warren Gough, associate manager of the book department, to a newspaper reporter in 1978. "A lot of the staff is getting older. We're going to have to attract younger people, and the way the housing market's going, it's going to be difficult."

In 2002, the Pacific Press published "Milestones, a History of Mountain View."

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Duke
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

"...it is also one of the most historic sites in the city."
What is THE MOST historic site in the city?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by old timer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 26, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Most historic? I'd say its a tie between the Rengstorff House, Hangar One and the Pacific Pres buildings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nick
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm

I think this is good news. The Pacific Press campus is a lovely place with its well-kept gardens, courtyards, and historic press buildings. It's kind of a hidden gem - and I'm glad the Voice did such a nice job sharing its history as a part of this article. Growing up in that neighborhood, I remember many of us using it as a de-facto park on the weekends.

It sounds like Google will be a good steward of the site and its historic buildings, and am glad they're bringing some of their employees closer to the heart of Mountain View where they can easily walk to all the transit, shops, and restaurants Downtown.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ella
a resident of Whisman Station
on May 26, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I sure hope Microsoft doesn't ever leave Mountain View but decides to expand here as well.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Willowgate
on May 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm

The most historic site in MV? I'd say the building where William Schockley and the "Fairchild 8" got their start. It's on San Antonio avenue near the Milk Pail and Sears. It's now a Mexican market with fresh vegetables. You can stand in front of it and read the historic plaque in the sidewalk.

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 26, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Whether for the better, or worse, is debatable, but the 'Traitorous Eight' founders of Fairchild Semiconductor changed this valley (and the entire world) forever. Shockley's lab probably does deserve a little more recognition...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by K
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 26, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Wow, I had no idea that complex was so old! I always thought it looked nice for a corporate complex...it's been very well maintained. What a pleasant surprise. :)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ago
a resident of North Whisman
on May 26, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Microsoft just signed a lease to move and expand some of its business units from Mountain View into Moffett Towers in Sunnyvale:

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Madeline Johnston
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2011 at 6:06 am

Just one correction: Pacific Press was never "the" publishing arm of the SDA Church--it is "a" publishing arm of it. The church has publishing houses around the world, and even in the United States there is also the Review and Herald Publishing ASsociation in Hagerstown, MD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 27, 2011 at 10:15 am

With this purchase - Google almost doubled it's ENTIRE DIRECT PROPERTY TAX SUPPORT for the operations of local education! All the properties it owns/leases in Shoreline District pay no more than an average of 1/100 of a normal share for education operation BECAUSE OF THE SHORELINE DISTRICT founding statue. 0.5% of property taxes from it's Shoreline properties are guaranteed to education (on $33M AV) , but now, with this particular property, 49% of property taxes on $63M AV will be guaranteed to education! And it will change with property value. Yeah normal taxation priorities - boo redevelopment district tax diversions. (haven't I said that before (: ?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Where is this Pacific Press site located?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by LivingOnThe Border
a resident of another community
on Jun 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

59 building owned by Google! We're going to have to consider re-naming the city to Google View.


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