Jun. 5--After cooperating on several scientific projects, Google and NASA announced Wednesday they have negotiated a long-term lease that will allow the Internet search giant to build a major tech campus at the space agency's Ames Research Center in Mountain View.
Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are known for their interest in space exploration. Now the company says it will build up to 1.2 million square feet of offices, research and development space, company housing, recreation -- and possibly even retail shops for Google employees -- on 42 acres of the former Moffett Field property, which it will lease initially for $3.66 million a year.
The project is part of Google's plan for long-term growth, according to company representatives, who said details of the development are still being decided. Construction would start in 2013 and proceed over the next decade.
"We've always had a need for space and we're planning to be in Silicon Valley for many years to come," said Google spokesman Andrew Pederson. "This lease is a key part of that strategy."
The agreement was praised by officials at NASA and the city of Mountain View, who said it should further their efforts to create a high-tech community on the former Navy base and surrounding area.
A local environmentalist who has been concerned about development plans at the Moffett site said he was pleased to hear the project may include some housing that would allow Google employees to
live near their jobs.
"That's the kind of thing people in the community wanted to see: mixed-use and high-tech," said Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, adding that he didn't have enough information to comment further.
The amount and kind of housing are still to be determined, said Pederson, who acknowledged that Google hasn't built homes before. The company doesn't plan to become a major developer of housing or shopping centers, he added, but executives are considering ways to provide some "high-quality, affordable" housing to help attract talented employees.
Google has about 20,000 employees around the world, including about 8,000 working out of 2 million square feet of building space at its Mountain View headquarters and nearby facilities, Pederson said.
NASA already has 41 other tenants -- including businesses, non-profits and satellite offices for two universities -- at its research park, which is part of the larger Ames Research Center that the space agency has administered since taking over the decommissioned Navy base in 1994.
"We want to foster a long-term relationship with Google," added Ames spokesman Michael Mewhinney.
Google and NASA have been working together since 2005, when they announced an agreement to partner on research projects and began talks about a high-tech campus on the Ames property.
Since then, Google has provided grants for researchers at the Ames Center, and worked with NASA to develop software for distributing planetary data on the Internet. They have also collaborated on software to help emergency aid providers respond to big natural disasters.
Somewhat more controversial was a deal announced in 2007, in which Google paid NASA $1.3 million a year so company jets could use Ames runways -- conveniently located just minutes from Google headquarters. Critics said the deal was an unseemly benefit for a private firm, although NASA said it placed scientific instruments on the jets and gathered useful data from their flights.
A commercial real estate expert said the lease announced Wednesday seemed in line with others in the area. The 40-year agreement can be extended to a maximum of 90 years, with rent adjustments. Mewhinney said the initial rent provides a 7 percent return on an appraised value of $52.25 million for the land.