Google expands London property empire with $1 billion office purchase

Real Estate

The Central St Giles building in London.
DavorLovincic | iStock Unreleased | Getty Images

Google has bought a colorful office space in London for $1 billion while it waits for building work on its heavily-delayed U.K. headquarters to be completed.

The internet giant announced Friday that it has acquired all of the Central St. Giles building, where it already occupies a number of floors, in London’s West End.

“Our investment in this striking Renzo Piano-designed development represents our continued confidence in the office as a place for in-person collaboration and connection,” said Ronan Harris, vice president and managing director of Google U.K. and Ireland, in a blogpost.

Google plans to refurbish the office over the next few years, Harris said, adding that there will be collaboration spaces, team pods, and covered outdoor working spaces.

The Mountain View-headquartered firm employs 6,400 staff in the U.K. and the company has pledged to create enough U.K. office space for 10,000 in the coming years. Its main hub is in the recently gentrified King’s Cross neighborhood on the northern fringe of the city center, where it has snapped up several offices.

However, its new U.K. headquarters, which sits on a plot behind King’s Cross train station, is still under construction. The 11-storey “groundscraper” has been designed by the prestigious Heatherwick Studios and Bjarke Ingels Group. The plans show a 25-meter swimming pool, a 200-meter rooftop running trail, and a large sports hall with views over London. It will accommodate up to 4,000 Googlers when it’s completed.

Google’s new London headquarters.
Google

However, the development is running several years behind schedule. Google was initially hoping to be in the building by 2016, but a series of setbacks have pushed the move-in date back several years. The initial £1 billion ($1.2 billion) plans drawn up by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris were reportedly scrapped by Google cofounder Larry Page for being “too boring.”

A source familiar with the build, who did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the project, told CNBC last April that Google is aiming to be in by 2023/2024, marking a delay of almost a decade.

Other Google buildings in the King’s Cross neighborhood are at various stages of completion. Google eventually expects to employ around 7,000 people in the area.

Elsewhere, the Alphabet-owned DeepMind AI lab is also facing delays on a new 11-storey building in the same area. DeepMind was due to move into the building — which boasts a library, lecture theater, and a roof garden — last year but construction work is yet to finish.

Meanwhile, Apple is set to move 1,400 staff from multiple Apple offices around London into a new 500,000 square foot space, which will occupy six floors of the former Battersea coal-fired power station (depicted on the front cover of Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album).

The U.K. is one of the biggest outposts for U.S. tech giants. MetaTwitter, and Amazon have also acquired shiny multi-story buildings in London in recent years to accommodate their growing armies.

The coronavirus stalled many construction projects worldwide and the lavish headquarters of Silicon Valley firms are no exception. When restrictions tightened in the U.K., many construction companies temporarily shut down building sites and laid off workers.

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