Google is opening a sliver of its main campus to the general public starting this week.
The company opened its doors to what it’s calling its “Visitor Experience” center the public Thursday, following a ceremony where Google executives and local leaders gathered hear its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
“We’ve always been focused on the experience of Googlers and their friends,” said Google’s head of real estate Scott Foster. “But this project was designed intentionally for the general public.”
Ruth Porat, Google’s President and Chief Investment Officer, was also in attendance and helped cut the celebratory ribbon to the space.
Although the public can’t walk into Google’s actual office space, the new visitor center features a room where a community group or nonprofit can request to reserve the space for meetings or events. It also includes a cafe and retail Google store, which comes two years after the company opened its first public Google retail store in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The center’s cafe features dishes like sandwiches, soup, and desserts from local eateries. It’s Google’s first cafe open to the public, but has a lighter selection than a typical large campus cafeteria. It also features an outdoor “plaza” for events as well as a small craft space and a small local shop that will feature a rotation of local retailers.
Executives said that the center, which has been in the works for several years, comes at a time when technology is moving quickly and a post-pandemic need for more in-person spaces.
“Innovation is moving so fast that having a place to be together is even more important,” campus research and design director Michelle Kaufmann told CNBC, referring to artificial intelligence and cloud computing. “It’s a step in not being an ivory tower and hopefully it can be a blueprint for how community can be more involved.”
It comes amid a trend of Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook (now Meta) and Google departing from the traditional style of campus designs, which have historically been closed off from the general public. The trend comes as companies face pressure to appease both top talent and their non-tech neighbors.
Google was approved for plans for an even larger 80-acre mixed-use campus 10 miles down the road in downtown San Jose to house 25,000 employees. Executives have maintained it is still committed to doing a project in the area long-term after CNBC found that it halted project plans after the first demolition phase, due to economic concerns and cost-cutting this year.