CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Google commits to expanding operations in King’s Cross with £1bn campus

Widespread delight at tech giant's decision

20 November, 2016 — By Richard Osley

The highlighted area shows where Google’s new base will be in King’s Cross

GOOGLE sent its chief executive to King’s Cross to confirm it is building a “campus” on the redeveloped railwaylands.

Sundar Pichai was in London on Tuesday to reveal how the tech giant intends to expand on the offices it already has on the regeneration site by creating its first major headquarters outside the United States.

The move was quickly heralded by politicians as an indicator that London could attract big business beyond Britain’s departure from the European Union.

It is also a major coup for the King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership, which includes developer Argent.

While it has been criticised over the years for not building more affordable homes on what was Europe’s biggest brownfield site at 65 acres, the developer has been lauded elsewhere for the transformation of waste land behind King’s Cross station and the red light district which once flourished there.

Google will be a close neighbour of Camden Council, which moved into new offices in Pancras Square after decamping from the upper floors  of the Town Hall.

Labour finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said: “Google’s investment in King’s Cross confirms the area as the most exciting new tech and sciences hub in Europe.

“Camden’s cultural offer, its transport links and promotion of digital make it an ideal place to headquarter. It also caps off the remarkable transformation of King’s Cross driven by Argent and the Town Hall.”

He added: “Camden works closely with Google, who have a senior representative on Camden Business Board. Their volunteers already work in local schools to help children to code.”

Mr Pichai, appointed Google’s chief executive last August, said: “Here in the UK, it’s clear to me that computer science has a great future with the talent, educational institutions and passion for innovation we see all around us.

“We are committed to the UK and excited to continue our investment in our new King’s Cross campus.”

On top of the offices it had already secured in King’s Cross – where staff began moving in over the summer – Google now plans to build a “landscraper”, a long campus building.

In what is thought to be a deal worth £1billion, Google will buy the land and design its own facilities. More than 3,000 jobs are set to be created there, Google said. The announcement follows to-and-fro over the design of its new base in King’s Cross, with the company said to be searching for a more cutting edge look.

Green councillor Sian Berry, who has criticised the lack of social housing in the area’s transformation, said Google’s expansion should be welcomed.

“We must make sure King’s Cross doesn’t become too corporate or bland, but what we are seeing is London develop a good reputation for tech companies,” she said. “These should be jobs that local people can get skilled for and apply for.”

Chancellor Phillip Hammond said the move was a “vote of confidence for Britain” while London Mayor Sadiq Khan used the same phrase in describing what the move meant for London.

…But streetview car not so welcome

While the worlds of business, technology and politics were salivating over Google’s expanding operations in Camden this week, some of the borough’s residents may not be on the same page in terms of giving the company a warm welcome.

Not that is if you go by their reaction to the sight of Google’s car with its all-seeing eye.

In the latest update of Google’s “streetview” project, an open-to-all and searchable photo archive of every street in the world, the first reaction of several people in Camden photographed as they went about their daily business was to reach for a V-sign or to raise a middle finger.

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