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Google to build Ann Arbor tech center?

10. June 2005 • Murph
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While Google declined to comment on any firm intent, the Detroit News reports that they’ve been scouting Ann Arbor for a large chunk of real estate:

Ann Arbor may become home to a new technology center for up to 1,000 employees from Google Inc., the Internet search engine giant that was recently hired to digitize the University of Michigan’s 19 libraries.

In recent weeks, Google real estate representatives were scouting the Ann Arbor area for up to 75,000 square feet of space for a technology center that would help meet the company’s growing demand.

Boston and Boulder are mentioned speculatively as other possible locations. Detroit, sadly, is not mentioned except in the context that Ann Arbor has the lowest commercial vacancies in the region.

Michigan Business Review has a slightly more real estate-wonky piece on Google’s needs, saying they’re probably interested in existing facilities with little tenant build-out, and that no sites downtown or near campus are likely to fit the bill. Hello, Ellsworth Road.

  1. “Some local sites have been rejected to due power limitations, sources said, since Google requires 480-volt wiring.

    The lease term could range from three to five years, making an existing facility with few tenant build-out needs a likely contender.”

    Good God. If these people are seriously rejecting sites because of a lack of 480, then they need to quit their business dealings, and just stick to dinking around with computers…..that is, if they can figure out how to get electricity to their components.

    It takes about a half a week and a few grand (for a 200,000 square ft. building, this is an insignificant cost) to put in a 480 transformer. Heck, if we can do it, I would thing that google’s engineers could figure out how to make this happen.

    .....geez, they’re looking to house 1,000 people, and they’re worried about paying for wiring? WTF?!
       —todd    Jun. 10 '05 - 01:16PM    #
  2. I found that strange too. I know it’s been a stumbling block in multiple recent developments downtown, though, that DTE just can’t provide the electricity to anything beyond the current uses – unless the developer/user coughs up the cash for an entirely new transformer capable of supplying a lot of future need (and the land to put it on). This burden, of course, only falls on the first development on a block, though, after which there’s plenty of excess capacity for the next few developments, and every one of the developers faced with this has come to the DDA asking for TIF money to help out. (I believe the DDA has provided some assistance in these situations, but I can’t say for sure which projects or how much assistance.) It takes a lot longer than a half a week to ask the DDA for this assistance and figure out whether you’ve gotten it (I’d say month and a half minimum, if you make your plea at the right point in the committee/board meeting cycle).

    It still seems like a relatively small part of the deal for the size of project Google is talking – but if Boston has half a dozen sites that Google could move into tomorrow if they desired, it’s a non-negligible part of the deal.
       —Murph    Jun. 10 '05 - 01:28PM    #
  3. Well, I can certainly understand this reluctance for a smaller business, but wow.

    I’d be much more worried about things like the cost of living, the quality of the UMich grads, and personal property tax levels. I can only imagine how many tens of thousands of dollars would be levied against all the computer equipment that they’d be installing.

    When you think of all of the wiring needed for the inside of the building, I don’t understand why they’d be concerned about the one big cable that runs to a transformer that sits outside of the building. If they were only running a few dozen pieces of enormous equipment, maybe I’d get where they were coming from…...
       —todd    Jun. 10 '05 - 01:47PM    #
  4. How much space is available in the old Borders HQ building between their store #1 and the parking garage? Last time I was in A2 it looked that was mostly or entirely vacant, and I suspect it’s pretty big. Although prob. not 200,000 square feet …
       —Rob    Jun. 10 '05 - 03:07PM    #
  5. Google’s physical-plant requirements are fairly unique. I do know that electrical and networking has been a problem downtown and in the city as a whole. My guess is that some of the buildings just aren’t right for many reasons. It has been our experience that money isn’t the stumbling block for Google but they aren’t fools either—they are going to get the best deal they can. Cost of living is no different and probably less here than it is in California, Boston, and Boulder so that isn’t really an issue. Also, Google has had a presence here for a while now and of course Larry Page went to school here so they have pretty good idea of the region and city. They like being here, they like the Michigan graduates, they like the area. When the Google deal with UM was announced, they were flooded with applications from around the country so it wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to expand here. I was more surprised at some of the details of the articles. There was information in there that I thought was still supposed to be quiet.

    Rob, the old Borders space isn’t good space. They get a lot of fumes from the trucks that park under the Maynard St. Parking structure, it is pretty chopped up (there is a big staircase right through the middle), and there are no external windows. The University got out of that space as soon as they could (I think they may still be paying on the lease) because staff were very unhappy/unhealthy there. I can’t imagine it would be the kind of space a company like Google would take over.
       —Juliew    Jun. 10 '05 - 03:30PM    #
  6. “My guess is that some of the buildings just aren’t right for many reasons.”

    Mine too. The comment about 480v is out of left field. With all of the factors involved in site selection for a publicly traded tech company, voltage is way, way down on the list if they are allowed to set up anywhere in the U.S.

    I mean, if $$ is really the issue, then they’d be better served to focus on comparing taxes, Kilowatt costs, and whether or not utility deregulation is in effect or on the horizon. A fixed one time cost just isn’t that big of a deal for a public company, when compared to all of their other concerns (location, attractiveness for potential employees, etc.), whether financial or otherwise.

    ...and clearly time is a factor for these guys, or they’d just buy a build to suit parcel of land and get exactly what they want.
       —todd    Jun. 10 '05 - 03:49PM    #
  7. I’d like to propose the formation of the Google Tally Hall Welcome Committee. We’ll throw a party for them if they end up there. (Since the City seems to have decided the police won’t.)
       —Murph.    Jun. 10 '05 - 04:13PM    #
  8. todd,

    last year, google hired three students out of my lab, and one the year before that … and of course you know that one of google’s founders is a umich graduate …

    all in all, i think google has a pretty positive view of the quality of umich grads :-)
       —peter honeyman    Jun. 10 '05 - 04:14PM    #
  9. Julie, thanks for the info. No wonder Borders went to the burbs. How do you think it could best be used?
       —Rob    Jun. 10 '05 - 04:18PM    #
  10. Ha Murph, I had the same thought about Tally Hall. It would have to be totally redone, and the city would have to give all sorts of tax breaks, plus I know electrical and networking are difficult there, but I bet Google wouldn’t mind being downtown and that would help Liberty/State a lot. Of course, parking would be a problem …

    Rob, honestly I don’t know what the old Borders building is best for now. The inside looks pretty nice, but the poor air and the lack of windows (or any way of getting some natural light are big problems. There are also a lot of vibrations and noise since the parking structure is above it. While they were working on the Maynard structure, the fumes and noise got so bad that OSHA required staff inside to wear ear protection and breathing masks.
       —Juliew    Jun. 10 '05 - 05:45PM    #
  11. There’s a data center ready building downtown in the old Cisco space on S Main above and next to Keybank, but I’m sure it doesn’t have room for 1000 employees.

    Maybe the lovely new Internet2 building could be repurposed? Again probably not big enough, and there are a few existing tenants there.
       —Edward Vielmetti    Jun. 10 '05 - 06:01PM    #
  12. “Ha Murph, I had the same thought about Tally Hall. It would have to be totally redone, and the city would have to give all sorts of tax breaks, plus I know electrical and networking are difficult there, but I bet Google wouldn’t mind being downtown and that would help Liberty/State a lot. Of course, parking would be a problem…”

    Ha. 1,000 new tech employees in the heart of downtown? Why must you taunt? :)

    ....and “parking would be a problem”, nice touch. Don’t think that I don’t appreciate the comedy, Julie.
       —todd    Jun. 10 '05 - 07:07PM    #
  13. I hear they’re having trouble filling the Life Science Initiative bldg; maybe the U wants some tenants?
       —Murph    Jun. 10 '05 - 07:19PM    #
  14. Sorry Todd, I couldn’t resist.
       —Juliew    Jun. 10 '05 - 07:23PM    #
  15. Murph,
    I’d be willing to argue that Google represents ‘life’ science better than most of the other projects that will be taking place there…
       —Marc R.    Jun. 10 '05 - 07:44PM    #
  16. What about the South State Street area down by Briarwood?
       —John Q.    Jun. 11 '05 - 02:44AM    #
  17. The state street I-94 area seems ripe to me too. Is there some sort of 480-volt grid map? How does that work? Does it require its own substation? Repurposing the life sciences? Another interesting idea. But how likely is it? I didn’t realize the Border’s building had so many problems, Julie. Don’t you think there’s a way to get some sunlight in there and avoid the fumes? But can they get 480 in there? What an amazing opportunity for the city. I think the city should help as much as possible tho’ I’m not a fan of big tax breaks for big businesses.
       —Eric Lipson.    Jun. 11 '05 - 11:17AM    #
  18. As far as South State goes – that’s basically where the “Hello, Ellsworth” crack came from.

    The tech park down on the northeast corner of State and Ellsworth has, I believe, had vacancy problems for quite some time. They’re also, though, probably badly in need of rehabbing to hit google standards. Avis Farms, on State south of the airport, has also been having vacancy problems. I don’t know how much square footage is available at either place, though.

    I don’t really want to encourage Google to take their 1000 people and 200,000 square feet outside the freeway ring, though.

    Ooooooh, maybe Lower Town! Lease them the old Suzuki Tech Center to start, with office space overlapping into the Broadway Village project! That’ll get BV moving (they’re waiting to hit pre-leasing targets right now), and I remember Peter Allen saying in class that Suzuki had all the power anybody could want.

    Google sparking the second renaissance of Lower Town. (The first one being when the U knocked down everything for parking lots, sigh.) Ah, Murph’s happy world…
       —Murph    Jun. 11 '05 - 02:03PM    #
  19. I was thinking north of Eisenhower – not in the industrial parks south of the freeway. But I like the idea of sticking Google in Lower Town.
       —John Q    Jun. 14 '05 - 01:53PM    #
  20. If they’re looking for existing space, I don’t know that there’s anything available north of Eisenhower? Now, I’d very much like to see that span of State redeveloped into something that resembles a compact, walkable area, but I don’t think google will wait for that.
       —Murph    Jun. 14 '05 - 03:32PM    #
  21. Oh, God, Google in lowertown would be my wet dream… do we email that idea to?
       —js    Jun. 14 '05 - 07:18PM    #
  22. do we email that idea to?

    (maybe leave out the … um … sticky stuff.)
       —peter honeyman    Jun. 14 '05 - 10:10PM    #
  23. One reason that Detroit may not have made the cut is Google wants to be located near public transportation. And we already know the mayor isn’t so fond of those DDOT buses.

    As for the State Street area, Avis Farms is not ideal because AATA buses drop you about a mile away. Unless there are proposals to extend bus service to the whole “tech corridor”. Having gone to an interview out there I’m dubious about working in an office park setting. Not very lively and so many miles of ugly manicured lawns.

    For those looking to earn some extra $$ on the side, Google does hire “Quality Raters” (check out their employment page) which is work you do on-line. Perfect for students. Esp. those with foreign language skills
       —Eris    Jun. 16 '05 - 01:15PM    #
  24. A couple transit comments:

    (1) If Google comes to Ann Arbor, you can bet AATA will come to Google.

    (2) DDOT’s buses are dirty, noisy, and poorly maintained, but they do run 24 hours a day. During business hours, most routes are standing room only. Whatever the mayor may think about the buses, Detroit needs them, and the service will continue.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jun. 16 '05 - 01:35PM    #
  25. Yet another reason that Lansing>A2>DTW/Detroit light rail line would be a good idea …
       —Rob    Jun. 21 '05 - 09:22PM    #
  26. What does everyone think of Freeze Building location housing the Googleplex? U of M can build out on the empty lot next to the Freeze Building and make it large enough for their own use and for Google. It would be a BIG win-win for Ann Arbor, U of M and Google.

    I think it makes a lot of sense.

       —Michael Yi    Jul. 25 '05 - 12:50PM    #
  27. Google is looking for server room technicians in Ann Arbor. Employment ad was placed a few days ago. I don’t want to jump the gun but could this be the start of Google’s move to Ann Arbor? It would make sense for Google to hire server room technicians first to build the infrastructure needed for their operation. My impression is that full time sever room technicians would only be needed for a fairly larger operation. It could also be for their library book scanning operations. I would appreciate input from someone that is familiar with server room operations.
       —Michael Yi    Sep. 22 '05 - 01:55PM    #
  28. Michael,

    Michigan Business Review says Google’s current hiring is for the digitization project , and mentions that google still isn’t talking on the Googleplex search.

    The company seeks to hire technicians that will install and maintain new servers equipment capable of processing and storing network information in a server room at an undisclosed site in the city.

    Google [Nasdaq: GOOG] had been looking for up to 40,000 square feet of space for the digitization project, as well as up to 250,000 square feet capable of housing a Googleplex, its name for a combined technology/call center (See Business Review, June 9-15). The company has refused to comment on the state of either space search, and sources say that anyone working with Google has been bound by strict confidentiality agreements.

    However, it appears that the company has identified a site for the digitization project, though no details are available on its location. Ads placed by Google on Internet job-search sites and its own Web site make it clear that it will be hiring for a site that will have new equipment. The digitization is taking place in libraries nationwide, despite challenges over copyright issues.

    Incidentally, I was checking MBusinessReview not for a story on this, but because I recognized your name – looks like that was last week’s issue, though, and they don’t have any archives (wtf?). So, I’ll just ask, are you the guy who just bought half a dozen buildings on Liberty? Or am I misremembering names?
       —Murph.    Sep. 22 '05 - 03:16PM    #
  29. Murph,

    You caught me red handed. I am the person that bought the building. You can see why I am interested in knowing whether or not Googleplex is coming to AA. I am very hopefull they will. It would be a great fit for AA and U of M.

       —Michael Yi    Sep. 23 '05 - 03:51AM    #
  30. Google coming to AA!!! Yeeha!!!


       —Michael Yi    Jul. 11 '06 - 10:51PM    #
  31. Does anyone have information on where Google is interviewing or on how to apply? There is nothing on the Google website indicating they have openings.

       —Lynn    Jul. 12 '06 - 11:26PM    #
  32. Lynn, if you can’t figure how to apply maybe you or your family should not bother?

       —Larry & Sergey    Jul. 12 '06 - 11:54PM    #
  33. Lynn,

    You can find the job postings here:

       —John Q.    Jul. 13 '06 - 12:23AM    #
  34. John Q.
    Are you forgetting your Darwin?

       —Larry & Sergey    Jul. 13 '06 - 12:32AM    #
  35. Good luck finding that posting Lynn,

    PS – Larry and Sergey are 100%, pure, prime-cut jack-asses!

       —Ned    Jul. 25 '06 - 10:29PM    #
  36. The people at Google pass over way to many people cause they think everyone needs to be Ivy League to work for them. They can go back to Cali with that nonesense

       —Joe Blow    May. 24 '07 - 07:13PM    #
  37. “Joe” I suggest you talk with a Google recruiter. Google looks for extroverted and free thinking people who don’t like/need a lot of structure and organization. They look to fill their ranks with a mix of seasoned folks and young college grads. If you are introverted, more structured based, then Google will not work well for you. Feel free to send your resume to Google, they often hire people not necessarily hire for a job posting/head count. (P.S. I’m not a recruiter)

       —Sellers    Sep. 1 '07 - 03:30AM    #