Following its climb to the upper echelon of technology companies, rivaling the likes of Google, Amazon, and Apple, Facebook is now expanding its influence into physical public space. The design of Willow Village, a planned community spanning 59 acres in a neighborhood across from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, reflects a major push into real estate as a revenue stream for the social media platform.
Willow Village will replace a former industrial complex with the familiar elements of a pedestrian-friendly community, including a town square, restaurants, shops, a supermarket, 1,700 apartment units, and a hotel with nearly 200 rooms. By the looks of newly released renderings, the community will not be inundated with the Facebook logo nor other familiar trappings of the tech giant, but will instead display the common elements of a modern low-rise neighborhood. One distinguishing element, however, is the recent inclusion of a design for a 2.1-acre elevated park over Willow Road. Likely inspired by the High Line in New York City, the park will weave together walking trails, bicycle paths, seating areas, and gardens composed of native drought-tolerant plant species.
Though Facebook anticipates Willow Village will be largely occupied by many of its own employees, the company has expressed that the neighborhood will be as demographically and occupationally diverse as other parts of Menlo Park. In this spirit, the 1.25 million square feet of office space, scaled down by half a million square feet since the last master plan design was made public, will be set aside for companies other than Facebook.
Closely following the principles of ConnectMenlo, Menlo Park’s governmental initiative to become a more community-focused city, Willow Village is the product of three years of conversations with the neighbors and civic leaders of the Bay Area. The master plan has gone through several design iterations since it was first proposed in 2017, and has since increased affordable housing on the site from 15 percent to 20 percent, amounting to more than 300 affordable units, 120 of which will be geared toward senior citizens. The design for Willow Village is also adhering to LEED Gold standards by incorporating recycled water, sustainable construction materials, drought-resistant landscaping, and photovoltaics as an energy source. In addition, the master plan provides direct bike and pedestrian access to Facebook headquarters in an attempt to reduce car dependency among its employees.
Facebook has planned Willow Village in collaboration with Signature Development Group, a local real estate development company with a track record for revitalizing undervalued land through mixed-use construction. The recent commitment to affordable housing is part of Facebook’s billion-dollar pledge to the state’s growing housing crisis, an initiative announced by the company two years ago.
According to the website, “The City of Menlo Park continues to prepare the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Willow Village,” and is reportedly close to moving past the proposal phase.