Mountain View, CA – Google has opened its “Visitor Experience” center to the public, marking a significant shift towards greater community engagement. The move was celebrated in a ceremony attended by Google executives and local leaders, taking place near the company’s headquarters. This change is a departure from Google’s traditional closed-campus style.
Scott Foster, Google’s head of real estate, highlighted that this initiative was purposely designed for the general public. “We’ve always focused on the experience of Googlers and their friends,” he mentioned. “But this project is all about the public.”
Ruth Porat, Google’s President and Chief Investment Officer, cut the ribbon at the event to officially open the space. While the general public can’t access Google’s actual office areas, the new visitor center offers a range of amenities. These include a room that community groups or non-profits can book for meetings or events. There’s also a cafe and a retail Google store, which is a significant expansion of Google’s retail presence after the launch of its first public Google store in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The cafe at the center serves dishes from local eateries, like sandwiches, soup, and desserts. This is Google’s first cafe open to the public, offering a lighter menu than a typical large campus cafeteria. In addition to this, the visitor center has an outdoor “plaza” for events, a small craft space, and a local shop that rotates products from local retailers.
Executives shared that this center has been in development for several years and responds to the rapidly evolving technology landscape. It also caters to the growing need for in-person spaces in the post-pandemic world. Michelle Kaufmann, campus research and design director, said, “Innovation is moving so fast that having a place to be together is even more important, especially with artificial intelligence and cloud computing. It’s a step away from being an exclusive club and could serve as a blueprint for greater community involvement.”
This move aligns with a Silicon Valley trend, where tech companies like Facebook (now Meta) and Google are departing from the traditional closed-campus style. The shift is driven by the desire to cater to both top talent and non-tech neighbors. Facebook, for instance, has reworked its Menlo Park campus plans to include amenities like affordable housing, a full-service grocery, and a pharmacy, making it more accessible to the public.
Meanwhile, Google is working on an 80-acre mixed-use campus in downtown San Jose, 10 miles away, meant to house 25,000 employees. Despite initial economic concerns and cost-cutting measures, the company remains committed to this long-term project.
Google’s decision to open its Visitor Experience center to the public reflects a broader shift in the tech industry towards greater community engagement. This change enhances local community access to Google’s resources and services, creating a stronger connection between the tech giant and the public.