Tech firms leaving the business parks for urban settings
The artfully disheveled office of architect Primo Orpilla sits in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, where worn industrial buildings command stratospheric real-estate valuations because they’re popular with the geek crowd.
Orpilla and his wife, Verda Alexander, run Studio O+A, which claims many of the high-tech companies moving into SOMA as clients. The architectural firm has caught the wave hitting San Francisco, long a laggard while suburban Silicon Valley
“Tons of companies we’ve worked with, like Box.com and Samsung, have shed the Silicon Valley esthetic,” said Orpilla. “In San Francisco you can walk out the door to your favorite coffee shop and work comfortably there.”
In the dizzy days of the dot-com bubble, sports cars emblazoned with Starship Academy stickers were the emblems of geek chic. Now, Orpilla says, it’s the one-speed bicycle known as a fixie that can cost as much as $2,000.
Software companies and app makers tap into the creative- industry energy of cities, where the talent they seek increasingly wants to live.
Consumer-review website Yelp Inc. (YELP) is moving into seven floors that Studio O+A designed in a 1940s SOMA building once occupied by an electric utility. The remodeled space will be “almost industrial, almost raw,” Orpilla said, a design-firm aesthetic that appeals to media-savvy tech companies. Twitter Inc. and Zynga Inc. (ZNGA) have snapped up swaths of space in SOMA.
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