Google leasing big chunk of new downtown Austin tower

Search engine giant Google Inc. is set to establish a major presence in downtown Austin, with plans to lease more than 200,000 square feet of a 29-story office tower being built as part of the redevelopment of the former Thomas C. Green Water Treatment Plant site.

Gerardo Interiano, public affairs and government relations manager for California-based Google, confirmed the lease in a written statement Friday.

“Since 2007, hundreds of Googlers have lived and worked in Austin, enjoying all the city has to offer from our trails to our festivals, to countless breakfast tacos,” Interiano said in the statement, issued through Austin-based Elizabeth Christian Public Relations. “As a result of our recent growth, we are excited to share that Google Austin has signed a lease for over 200,000 square feet at the new Green Water Treatment Plant redevelopment at 500 West 2nd Street.”

Google currently has three Austin locations, on North Mopac Boulevard (Loop 1), at University Park just north of downtown, and its Google Fiber space in what was formerly the Austin Children’s Museum downtown. The new space will consolidate the employees on North Mopac and University Park, while Google Fiber will remain at the Children’s Museum location three blocks from the new site, Interiano said.

Google has declined to release its current Austin headcount. Worldwide, the company has more than 50,000 employees.

Niki Christoff, a director of corporate communications for Google in Washington, D.C., said the company would not be making any additional comments beyond the written statement.

On its website, Google says of its Austin operations: “Ever since we opened our office in the music capital of the world, we’ve been infusing a little bit of Austin in all we do — from the conference rooms named for musicians to the Airstream trailer that serves as our front lobby desk. We mostly focus on sales, marketing and staffing, and like most of Google, we’re growing fast, with new, Texan-sized opportunities opening up all the time.”

Mike Rollins, president of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said Google’s Austin growth is good news for the area.

“Google’s expansion reflects the strong innovation economy in our region, and adds to the vibrant and resilient downtown community,” Rollins said. “The new project also underscores the unique quality of life that attracts and retains high-tech talent in Austin.”

The new office tower where Google will lease space will have almost 490,000 square feet of office space and about 11,000 square feet restaurant and retail space on the ground floor. It is due to be completed in early 2017.

Sam Houston, office division partner with HPI Real Estate Services and Investments, said HPI’s San Clemente office project in Southwest Austin was among the potential sites Google’s local office brokers toured during their search.

Google occupies a total of about 120,000 square feet of space between its Stonebridge offices on Mopac and at University Park, Houston said. He estimated the company’s current Austin headcount at about 500 people, based on a formula of about four to five workers per 1,000 square feet of space.

The amount of new space Google will occupy downtown would be enough to accommodate an estimated 800 to 1,000 people, Houston said.

The office tower marks the second phase of Trammell Crow’s development, which is transforming the former Green Water industrial site into more than 1.7 million square feet of residences, offices, hotel rooms, shops and restaurants. Construction on the first phase, a three-tiered tower called Northshore that will have about 440 apartments and more than 40,000 square feet of office and retail space, is due to be completed late this year.

Joe Wanninger, assistant manager director with Principal Real Estate Investors, Trammell Crow’s partner in the office tower, has said that the building “will be one of the highest quality assets in Austin and in our entire portfolio nationwide.”

Troy Holme, a senior vice president at CBRE, said tenant interest in the tower “has been exceptional.”

“It’s too soon to comment on any other prospects, but we hope to make some announcements in the coming months,” Holme said.

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