Case Studies

SRM Development LLC – Google Kirkland Phase II Project

When the developer got the shoulder, it turned to Kirkland

A few years after SRM Development finished Google’s three building office complex in Kirkland, Washington, in 2007, the developer began thinking of ways to expand the project.

In 2010, “we started looking at the vacant land across the way from the original three buildings, and started to formulate some thoughts about ways we could expand this campus,” says Dave Tomson, development manager for the Google office at SRM.

SRM’s vision for the expansion was to build another office building in the vacant lot and then connect it, through a walkway or bridge, to the three 195,000-square-feet, LEED certified offices.

Dave Tomson – SRM Development LLC

But before SRM could present the idea to Google, it had to make sure the bridge and access to the land was even possible.

Google’s office and the empty lot next to it were located in the industrial part of Kirkland’s Norkirk neighborhood, and were separated by an extension of the Eastside Railway Corridor (ERC), a 42-mile inactive railway that hugged the coast of Lake Washington from the city of Renton to Snohomish County, Kirkland’s northern neighbor.

SRM needed permission from the railway’s owner, the Port of Seattle, the port authority that runs Seattle’s harbors and airport, to access the land, but for months the port authority was unresponsive, never returning SRM’s right-of-way queries.

A partnership in the making

So SRM tried a different tactic—working through the city of Kirkland.

SRM had a good relationship with Kirkland, as it had previously developed an assisted living community in the city. It turned out that since the ‘90s Kirkland had planned to turn a portion of the Port of Seattle’s railway into recreational trails.

“The city manager, Kurt Triplett, had had a vision for this railway for a long time and he really believed these trails would help with traffic and connect the city’s neighborhoods,” Tomson says.

What’s more, the nearly six-mile portion of the railway Kirkland wanted to purchase from the port authority included the very stretch preventing SRM from purchasing the land it wanted to develop.

But while Kirkland would almost certainly grant SRM right of way if it purchased the stretch of railway, the timing wasn’t great for the city to be buying land.

It was the tail end of the recession, and like cities across the county, Kirkland was strapped for cash. But SRM persisted, making the case to the city that an expanded Google campus could mean a significant number of new, well-paid employees, who would contribute to property taxes and the community in numerous ways. Eventually, Kirkland agreed—Tomson said the city officials were “phenomenal to work with”—taking “a leap of faith” to purchase that piece of railway for $5 million in 2011.

That leap of faith, he says, had paid off.

With the right of way taken care of, SRM pitched the expansion project to Google, and after a few years negotiating, SRM broke ground on what became known as Google Phase II in October 2014, finishing work in 2015.

Positive outcomes

Today, Google’s new office, a two story, 180,000-square-foot L-shaped building, has the same white exterior as Phase I and is connected to the neighboring offices by a 170-foot covered bridge.

The bridge, which serves as a walkway for Google employees, extends over the 100-foot wide public land reserved for the Cross Kirkland Corridor (CKC), which SRM, with the city’s approval, turned into a public park, named Feriton Spur Park. During construction, SRM worked with the architect Kirkland had used to design the CKC to make sure the new park matched the city’s vision for the corridor.

Paved walkways crisscross through the grass between the two phases, allowing Google employees and Kirkland citizens to mingle along the CKC, and enjoy amenities that include a sand volleyball court, exercise equipment, a children’s playground, and a basketball court designed with Seattle Seahawk colors.

As part of its mission to support and meld with communities, Google commissioned a turf field on land owned by Kirkland’s school district, which is next to the newly completed Phase II. The field, which also includes a baseball diamond, is open to the community for soccer, softball and lacrosse.

Looking back on the project, Tomson says he’s still amazed it all came together as well as it did, and was pleased to help the city achieve a goal two decades in the making and receive the city’s own aid and faith.

“We could not have done this without the city’s flexibility and involvement,” he says. “The way they stepped up to the plate to support our thoughts around expanding Google was absolutely extraordinary.”

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