Apple spaceship campus moves closer to completion as residents brace for more traffic – The Mercury News

CUPERTINO — Standing outside his house on East Homestead Road, 78-year-old Steve Rohde remembers rectangular Hewlett-Packard offices, quieter roads and a time when he looked straight across his yard and saw cherry orchards.

Now a massive spaceship-like Apple campus has landed across the street.

“They put it together like a jigsaw puzzle. It was really incredible,” said Rohde, who has lived near the dividing line between Sunnyvale and Cupertino since the 1970s.

This month, Apple employees started to move into the ring-shaped main building, which spans about 2.8 million square feet, contains four stories and includes the world’s largest panels of curved glass. More than 12,000 workers will fill the campus over six months as construction on the 175-acre site continues into the summer.

Apple Park, formerly known as Apple Campus 2, has an estimated price tag of $5 billion.

The opening of the building is not only a milestone for Apple, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone this year, but honors the legacy of innovation that late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs left behind. A theater in Apple Park will be named after Jobs, who died in 2011 from pancreatic cancer at age 56.

“This is Steve Jobs’ legacy. I had no idea he was going to leave us that soon,” said Gilbert Wong, former Cupertino mayor and council member. “Now it’s really up to Tim Cook and his team to continue the legacy of technological process and move Apple forward after the campus is built.”

As the campus nears completion, nearby residents are bracing for more traffic to clog an already congested region.

“You just have to be careful when you back out of your driveway otherwise you’ll get run over by someone,” said Rohde as cars whizzed by his Sunnyvale home. “That’s just the price you pay.”

Apple declined to comment.

In late 2010, Wong met Jobs for the first time on the fourth floor of Apple’s headquarters with Cupertino Mayor Kris Wang. Growing up in the Santa Clara Valley, Wong had watched Jobs from a distance, reading about the tech mogul in newspapers.

Jobs, dressed in his signature black turtleneck and jeans, looked very thin that day but his mind seemed crystal clear.

“He was there to market something to us so we only saw the positive side,” he said.

After having a conversation with the Cupertino politicians, Jobs led them down a hallway to a locked door.

“I’m sure you’ve watched The Willy Wonka movie,” Wong said. “He had this little key and you don’t know what’s behind this door.”

Inside was a detailed model of a circular spaceship-like building, filled with miniature trees and people.

“I just loved it,” Wong said. “It was all glass, round and there was a huge park in the middle.”

Since then, Wong said he’s been on the roof of the building and seen the digging for the 1,000-seat auditorium.

“Some of the glass was put in my last visit, but I didn’t have a chance to touch it because it was an active construction site,” he said.

About 80 percent of the campus is made up of green space, a nod to Silicon Valley’s agricultural roots. Designed by world renowned architect Norm Foster, the circular design of the headquarters is similar to a quad on Stanford University’s campus or London Square where houses are surrounded by a park.

The campus also includes a fitness center, a visitors center with an Apple store, an auditorium and research and development facilities. The campus is meant to foster creativity and collaboration among workers by combining thousands of employees in one location.

In his last public appearance before his death, Jobs presented the design to the Cupertino City Council. The tech firm purchased the site from HP in 2010.

“I think we do have a shot at building the best office building in the world,” Jobs told the city council in 2011.

In 2013, the city council unanimously approved the project. The new campus is expected to generate an additional $32 million of property tax revenue to local public agencies, according to an economic impact report by Keyser Marston Associates. Apple also funded more than $66 million in public improvements around the campus and will spend about $35 million annually to help alleviate the traffic from their employees, according to the report.

While some residents supported the project, others raised concerns that more traffic would disrupt the quality of suburban life in Cupertino, a city with about 60,500 people as of 2015.

CJ Jocson lived in Cupertino for 23 years before moving to Nevada, but she’s thinking about returning to her hometown. More could have been done to mitigate the traffic, she said, but ultimately she supported the development of Apple’s new campus.

Traffic has discouraged her from driving to see Apple Park when she returns to the area every month for work. But she’s been watching its progress over the years online.

“Apple really put Cupertino on the map. No question about that,” she said. “And the consequence? People like myself who sold our homes could not complain.”

And for some residents, it’s yet another reminder of the rise and fall of tech companies in Silicon Valley.

“Maybe I’ll live here long enough to see them tear it down and building something else. Who knows?,” Rohde said. “Nobody who used to work over there ever in their wildest imaginations ever thought that HP would not be there.”

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