The centerpiece of Google’s Seattle expansion is in flux after a construction crane for the tech giant’s new campus in Amazon’s backyard toppled over the weekend, killing four people and injuring several others.
RELATED: Four dead after construction crane topples at future Google building in busy Seattle tech corridor
Google told GeekWire last month that it was targeting a date of mid- to late-summer to start moving people into the campus, which has been under construction for more than two years. The campus, first announced in 2016, consists of two blocks with 607,000 square feet of office space and 149 apartments. Google also leased a third nearby block just a few months ago.
The crane fell as crews were dismantling it Saturday afternoon, with part of it tumbling to the street below, hitting several cars on a busy Seattle street. The other piece punched out windows of one of the buildings and landed on the roof of the structure, damaging some of the mechanical systems.
The four victims include Sarah Wong, a 19-year-old freshman at Seattle Pacific University; Andrew Yoder, a 31-year-old ironworker who previously served in the Marines; Travis Corbet, a 33-year-old ironworker who was also an ex-Marine; and Alan Justad, a 71-year-old former deputy director of the department of planning and development for the City of Seattle.
It’s not yet clear how the incident might impact the timeline for opening the buildings. Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections, deferred to the contractors and developers for more information. Google and the contractor GLY Construction declined to comment beyond statements they issued over the weekend. We’ve contacted the developer, Vulcan Real Estate, and will update this post if we hear back.
RELATED: ‘A lot of heavy hearts today’: Tech and construction workers pause at scene of Seattle crane collapse
“We were saddened to learn of today’s accident at South Lake Union,” Google said in a statement. “We share our deepest condolences with those who’ve been affected and thank all the first responders who quickly sprang into action. We are in communication with Vulcan who is managing the site and working with the local authorities on the ground.”
Google first arrived in the Seattle area 15 years ago and now has roughly 3,400 employees in the region. With the recent addition of a third block, the new campus could hold anywhere from 4,600 to 6,200 employees using industry standard ratios of about 150 to 200 square feet per person. That would be a significant boost to Google’s capacity to hire more engineers in Seattle’s talent-rich ecosystem, especially in cloud computing.
The campus sits on the busy Mercer Street corridor just across the street from Amazon’s massive Seattle campus, and Google will surely look to peel off engineers and other talent from its rival to close the gap against cloud leader Amazon Web Services. The new South Lake Union location is expected to be “basically Google Cloud,” Greg DeMichillie, director of developer strategy for Google Cloud in Seattle, told attendees at our GeekWire Cloud Summit in 2017.
New Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian told GeekWire in a recent interview that he planned to dramatically expand the pool of enterprise salespeople inside Google Cloud, and what better place to find enterprise tech salespeople than in the backyards of AWS and Microsoft. It’s also a great place to scout talent among the growing number of cloud-focused startups that are springing up in and around Seattle, especially ones working with containers and Kubernetes, two cloud technologies at the heart of Google’s cloud pitch. During a 22-year career at Oracle, acquisitions were a major part of Kurian’s growth strategy.
Under previous Cloud CEO Diane Greene, Google vowed to turn its cloud-computing division into an even bigger source of revenue than its advertising division by 2020.
That is not going to happen. Despite a hiring spree that recruited both top-tier engineers and enterprise sales people, Google remains a distant third in the cloud computing market behind Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, and it has yet to fully disclose how much revenue it is making from cloud computing.
Still, this market is expanding fast enough to support several growing players, and Google is definitely one of those contenders. The company has struggled to link its technological prowess with the consultative sales touch favored by large enterprise computing buyers, and Kurian has vowed to deliver on that promise.
Google’s Seattle presence also includes several buildings in the Fremont neighborhood, along with a big campus in the suburb of Kirkland, Wash. that the company expanded three years ago. Google also recently leased some office space in Bellevue — where Amazon is also growing rapidly — and is rumored to be expanding further in Kirkland.
Seattle is Google’s third largest market, behind only its Mountain View, Calif. HQ and its rapidly expanding operation in New York City.
Seattle’s building boom has persisted for more than a decade, earning the city the title of crane capital of the U.S., but this is the first fatal tower crane incident of the latest run of development. The last occurred November 2006 in nearby Bellevue when a crane damaged buildings and killed a Microsoft lawyer.
The Seattle Times reported that the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has opened investigations into four companies involved in taking apart the crane.