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Google Spreads Its Wings In Iconic Los Angeles 'Spruce Goose' Hangar

Search-Engine Giant Expands Southern California Campus on Former Howard Hughes' Aerospace Headquarters
October 4, 2018

Google this week is moving into a 319,000-square-foot former airplane hangar in the Playa Vista master-planned development in Los Angeles.

Google is significantly expanding its Southern California campus this week by moving into the former "Spruce Goose" hangar once used by legendary engineer and pilot Howard Hughes in Los Angeles to house the largest wooden airplane ever built. In so doing, it brings full circle the vision of the local developer who seven years ago began converting the 28-acre campus on the former headquarters of Hughes Aircraft into a creative office complex.

After leasing the iconic hangar roughly two years ago, the search-engine giant is moving this week into the space in Westside neighborhood of Playa Vista, a master-planned development by Brookfield Residential that is part of the stretch of coastline dubbed Silicon Beach for its popularity with technology firms including Facebook and Snap.

Google now occupies 319,000 square feet in the extensively renovated hangar, which most recently functioned as a 250,000-square-foot movie studio where scenes from "Avatar" were filmed. The hangar expands the Mountain View, California-based search engine provider's presence to take over a majority of the 28 acres making up the campus. Google occupies all of the southern portion and a chunk of the eastern section of the property largely for its YouTube subsidiary.

The company also occupies roughly 100,000 square feet in Venice Beach just a few miles up the coast, including its 68,781-square-foot lease at the Frank Gehry-designed Binoculars Building, according to CoStar data.

The Playa Vista campus' renovation began when Los Angeles developer the Ratkovich Co. bought the Hughes property for $34 million in 2010 and began transforming it into a creative office hub by specifically taking cues from Google's Mountain View campus, which has amenities such as outdoor barbecue pits and bocce ball courts that lure employees to stick around after work.

"We want to create the Google effect" in extending the use of the campus after hours, developer Wayne Ratkovich told the Los Angeles Business Journal in 2011 when he began the renovations.

He named the Hercules Campus after the massive H-4 Hercules, also known as the Spruce Goose, flying boat designed by Hughes in the 1940s. The biggest wooden plane ever constructed was flown only once, in 1947.

The Spruce Goose in its hangar.

The Spruce Goose aircraft is now on display at a museum in Oregon.

Today Ratkovich's work appears to have paid off: He signed leases with YouTube and Google at the hangar and three nearby buildings, and then in 2016 sold them for $270 million to Japanese investors, according to CoStar.

In addition to the Spruce Goose hangar, Google owns 12 adjacent acres of land, which it purchased in 2014 for about $120 million. The company has not yet announced plans for the site, but the development of the acreage is expected to complete the campus.

The property is among several other buildings in the 460-acre Playa Vista development that have been repurposed into creative offices, said Alison Girard, director of marketing at Brookfield Residential.

Adding Google to Playa Vista, which is also home to organizations such as electronics maker Belkin, celebrity news site TMZ and nonprofit internet database maintenance firm the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, helps complete the vision for the master-planned development that dates back to the 1990s, Girard said.

"This community was envisioned as a place where people could live, work, shop, dine and recreate," she said. "As companies continue to move in, that vision just gets fuller."

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