Facebook’s big Austin reveal: 120,000 square feet of cool with more to come

Social media giant Facebook Inc. has formally unveiled its multimillion dollar remodel involving four floors at 300 W. Sixth St.

The showcase is a massive interior staircase connecting floors 9-12 and constructed with Facebook’s signature wood used exclusively at many of its facilities — a mixture of Douglas fir and marine-grade plywood.

“It’s amazing what the staircase has done,” said Katherine Shappley, Facebook’s small-to-medium business regional director based in Austin.

It’s obvious from the extended tour at Facebook’s main Austin headquarters that its 700 local employees would rather take the stairs.

Shappley showed me what unconventional — and expensive — transformations can be achieved in one of Austin’s conventional high-rise buildings. She didn’t disclose the cost but records at the city of Austin and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation show the amount approaching $10 million — and that would just be construction costs.

According to plans in review at the city, Facebook aims to spend another $1.2 million to remodel the 21st floor, which the social media darling recently leased in the same building.

After touring the 120,000 square feet of office and amenity space, which includes an expansive cafeteria that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, it dawned on me that Facebook also recently leased a large amount of space at The Domain— Domain 8.

But Jamil Walker, corporate communications manager for Facebook, implied that The Domain project is small compared with the downtown digs.

“Our office at 300 West Sixth Street is our hub,” Walker wrote in an email. “However, we do maintain smaller offices throughout the city for optional use.”

That smaller office at The Domain is slated for a $9.4 million buildout, according to TDLR records.

But back to the downtown digs.

Austin is clearly a big deal for the Menlo Park, California-based company, which is considered one of the top 10 most valuable enterprises in the world with a market capitalization of more than $430 billion.

“Austin is seeing hyper growth across all (company) functions,” Shappley said.

The growth has been explosive. When Facebook opened an Austin sales office in 2010, there were seven employees. Times have changed. Facebook went public in 2012 and the IPO raised $16 billion. In the past five years, the company has been involved in numerous acquisitions including Instagram, which was purchased for $1 billion before an IPO was completed.

Austin’s fortunes followed Facebook’s general trajectory. Today the local team includes a wide array of functions: operations, finance, HR, sales, recruiting and a host of specialized departments.

Shappley explained that the design by Gensler has been deeply thought out — ensuring that the Facebook corporate culture meshes seamlessly with Austin’s local vibe.

She said that the exposed industrial ceilings — a pretty trendy feature of tech firms — sends a message to everyone that “we’re just getting started.”

Local art also plays a big role at Facebook. In-house artists receive ample attention, but local professionals are featured prominently.

Another show-off amenity are the outdoor terraces — two on the ninth floor, each about 736 square feet. Public records indicate that creating those cool, furnished patios cost more than $700,000. The tricky construction assignment was handled by Balfour Beatty.

The large venue space for the many companywide meetings is named the “Rodeo” room. This rodeo is clearly in full swing.

Source: Austin Business Journal
Jan Buchholz, Senior Staff Writer

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