Uber's real estate footprint unmatched among S.F. Bay Area startups

An Uber app is seen on an iPhone in Beverly Hills, California, December 19, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

SAN FRANCISCO: Uber's new Oakland headquarters is nearly 70% bigger than Internet radio service Pandora Media's office nearby and will house about five times the number of employees that ride-hailing competitor Lyft has at its headquarters. 

The on-demand ride service paid US$123.5mil (RM513.51mil) for Oakland's historic Sears building last year and so far has filed building permits to complete at least US$2mil (RM8.31mil) in renovations, according to BuildZoom, a startup that compiles construction and remodelling contractor data for homeowners. 

Across the bay in San Francisco, Uber has so far initiated US$130mil (RM540.54mil) in construction on a bigger office in the Mission Bay neighbourhood, BuildZoom's data shows. 

The new building permit data from BuildZoom, provided exclusively to Reuters, underscores the mammoth growth in Uber's real estate footprint and associated costs, overshadowing most other tech startups in San Francisco and Oakland. 

Remodelling on the old Sears building will take another year, and the Mission Bay campus is still two or three years out, so construction costs will rise. Uber said it was also repairing damage on the Oakland building caused by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. 

Uber is the most highly valued venture-backed tech firm and has raised more than US$7.4bil (RM30.77bil) from investors, a war chest that can help fund real estate purchases. 

But its costly expansion in Oakland and San Francisco comes as the venture capital investing climate cools, with more investors wary that highly valued startups may not grow into their stratospheric valuation. 

The iconic Oakland building, which opened in 1929 as a department store, will house between 2,000 and 3,000 Uber employees across 380,000 square feet (35,303 sq. m.). 

By comparison, Ask.com, an Oakland-based search engine founded in the dotcom boom, has 200 employees in a 79,000-square-foot (7,339-sq.-m.) office it shares with other companies owned by parent IAC Publishing, spokeswoman Suraya Akbarzad said. 

Sungevity, a solar design company that has raised close to US$900mil (RM3.74bil) from investors, occupies approximately 68,000 square feet (6,317 sq. m.) in Oakland, spokesman John Ordona said. 

In San Francisco, Uber partnered with a real estate firm to purchase land for US$125mil (RM519.93mil) and develop a 423,000-square-foot (39,298-sq.-m.) campus that will house between 3,000 and 4,000 employees. That space is in addition to Uber's 500,000-square-foot (46,452-sq.-m.) headquarters in downtown San Francisco, according to BuildZoom. 

Other highly valued, fast-growing tech companies don't come close. Lyft said it has 66,000 square feet (6,132 sq m.)while online accommodations company Airbnb said it occupies 169,000 square feet (15,700 sq m.) in San Francisco. — Reuters

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