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September 22, 2014

Is Facebook Building a 'Company Town'?

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Is Facebook Building a 'Company Town'?

Facebook announced that it plans to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices in Menlo Park, Calif. The area has seen a housing shortage recently, and the company is seeking to fill the gap with rental housing.

The social network said last week it is working with a local developer known as St. Anton Partners—a San Francisco Bay area, multifamily real estate developer—to build the 630,000 square-foot rental property.

The company plans to reserve only 15 units specifically for Facebook employees. Facebook will also set aside some units for low-income residents and the remainder will go for market rates.

“Anton Menlo,” as the development is being called, will include amenities such as a bicycle repair shop, spa, and dog park. But the company’s nearby offices are already filled with perks. Employees have access to free treats, such as lattes and ice cream. The campus area is littered with sculptures, park benches, and shops.

The Wall Street Journal warns the development could dredge “up memories of so-called ‘company towns’ at the turn of the 20th century, where American factory workers lived in communities owned by their employer and were provided housing, health care, law enforcement, church, and just about every other service necessary.”

Convenience does have its costs, after all. Work-life balance at the already-competitive company could diminish, the newspaper warns, and “the downside could be unspoken expectations that employees always be working.” A writer at TIME.com joked that the company was building the complex so that employees would "never ever have to leave work."

Source: Facebook’s Company Town, The Wall Street Journal (Oct. 4, 2013).

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