R&D buildings to meet a fresh surge of expansions by tech companies that’s
turning the region into a commercial real estate boomtown. Last year, the South Bay added about 26,000 employees, enough to reduce
vacancy rates for R&D properties to 16.4 percent, the lowest level since
2007. And as hiring continues and popular Peninsula locations like Mountain View
and Palo Alto fill up, real estate brokers say about 16 companies are currently
scouring the South Bay for big chunks of space.
“Development. We haven’t used that word in a while,” said Chad Leiker, a vice
president with Kidder Matthews, a commercial realty brokerage. “But we are
starting to see that. The pressure is there to build more space.” If all the known projects are completed, they would total 2.3 million square
feet of space, which typically could accommodate 9,200 employees.. Buildings
already under construction, mostly in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara, total 788,000
square feet, enough for about 3,100 workers.
“In the time I’ve worked in Silicon Valley, I’ve never seen a market this
strong,” said Jeff Houston, a senior vice president with commercial real estate
firm CB Richard Ellis who has more than two decades of experience in the South
Bay market. At the end of last year, the South Bay’s vacancy rate for research and
development space was 16.4 percent, compared with 18.3 percent at the end of
2010. “It’s not just Google (GOOG)
and Apple (AAPL),”
said Phil Mahoney, an executive vice president with commercial realty firm
Cornish & Carey Newmark Knight Frank. “Several big tech companies are
actively looking for space.”
Brokers say about 16 companies are each hunting for at least 100,000 square
feet in the South Bay.
One of the first big projects to begin construction is the Sobrato
development at Central and San Tomas expressways. Each of the two buildings is
153,000 square feet, and together they could accommodate about 1,200
“Demand is good,” said Michael Field, director of commercial real estate with
The Sobrato Organization. “We have a couple of tenants that are looking at the
full campus and some tenants that have inquired about a single building.”
In Sunnyvale, development firm Jay Paul landed the biggest lease of 2011 at
its Technology Corners office complex when Google leased 715,500 square feet.
The four buildings that Google took have room for about 2,900 employees. That success encouraged Jay Paul to construct two more Sunnyvale buildings.
One is a office building totaling 357,000 square feet at the Moffett Towers
complex. The other is a fifth building at Technology Corners that would be
225,000 square feet in size.
More construction is on the horizon.
Menlo Equities aims to break ground by early April on a multi-building
project on 33 acres in Santa Clara that Menlo bought from Applied Materials. It
will likely construct five buildings that total 760,000 square feet, said Henry
Bullock, chairman and founder of Menlo Equities. The Irvine Company, the Southern California development firm, is planning a
400,000-square-feet project in Santa Clara on Great America Parkway near Highway
237. And South Bay Development is eyeing construction of 285,000 square feet in
San Jose could be the next hot spot for new construction as demand pushes
south and east. City officials have slashed taxes on new construction and tenant
improvements to attract development.
And some big building that were empty only last summer will soon be full. In
May, Polycom will move its headquarters, 375 workers and other operations to a
north San Jose building that could contain 600 to 700 employees. By September,
Flextronics will move 500 workers and its U.S. headquarters to a building next
to Polycom’s future offices.
Last year, demand was strong enough to reduce vacant commercial space in the
South Bay by 4.1 million square feet — roughly enough space to fill three malls
the size of Stanford Shopping Center.
“We are running out of space,” said Jim Beeger, a senior vice president with
Colliers International, a commercial realty brokerage. “In six months, it will
be very possible to run out of space.”
Some of the hottest markets in the South Bay are essentially out of space
“Google is taking everything in Mountain View, Apple is leasing everything in
sight in Cupertino — and they both are moving into Sunnyvale,” said Mark
Schmidt, managing director of the San Jose office of CB Richard Ellis, a realty
brokerage. Cupertino’s office market has a 5.6 percent vacancy rate, while its research-
and-development space has zero-percent vacancy, Cornish & Carey reported.
Mountain View has an office vacancy of 5.1 percent and a research space vacancy
of 6.4 percent. Sunnyvale’s vacancy for both office and research space is
slightly above 12 percent.
The current construction boom is very different from the one more than a
decade ago that was driven by the dot-com craze.”You had a lot of buildings for companies that wound up being vaporware,”
This time around, it’s Apple, Google, Facebook and other
sturdy players that are expanding. The new tech stalwarts command mountains of
cash. They seek to connect people with social networks, mobile devices and new
consumer products, as well as to make corporate America more efficient.