Apple and Google open new offices in London

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Apple’s new UK headquarters are under construction at the Battersea power plant.

Chris J. Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Over the past decade, Silicon Valley has taken a big step towards London, opening huge new offices in the capital.

Facebook, Twitter and Amazon have all acquired shiny multi-story buildings to accommodate their growing armies. But two of the biggest projects – the UK headquarters of Alphabet and Apple – are still underway, and now their future is uncertain.

The coronavirus has blocked construction projects worldwide, and the lavish headquarters of Silicon Valley companies is no exception. Locking in the UK keeps people from leaving their homes unless it’s for a food run or some exercise. As such, many construction companies have temporarily closed construction sites and laid off workers.

Construction on Google’s large campus at King’s Cross was suspended by main contractor Lendlease when the lockout was first announced on March 23.

“Construction on Google’s King’s Cross site remains on hold,” a Lendlease spokesperson told CNBC. Google declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

The main feature of the Google site is an 11-story “skyscraper”. Designed by the prestigious studios Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels Group, the construction plans show a 25-meter swimming pool, a 200-meter rooftop running trail and a large gym with views of London. It can accommodate up to 4,000 Googlers when completed.

However, the company’s plans to transform the land behind King’s Cross station into its new UK headquarters are several years behind schedule.

Mountain View originally hoped to be in the building by 2016, but a series of setbacks have delayed the move-in date by several years. The original £ 1 billion ($ 1.2 billion) plans devised by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris were reportedly abandoned by Google co-founder Larry Page for being “too boring”.

A source familiar with the build, who did not want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the project, CNBC told Google that it now aims to be present by 2023/2024, falling behind by almost a decade.

There are several other Google buildings in the neighborhood at various stages of completion, and Google plans to eventually employ 7,000 people in the area.

Elsewhere, the Alphabet-owned DeepMind AI laboratory is also facing delays in a new 11-story building, with construction work on hold indefinitely for the safety and well-being of everyone involved. DeepMind was slated to move into the building – which has a library, conference room and rooftop garden – this year, but it’s unclear if this will happen.

Apple’s former power plant

Likewise, construction on Apple Battersea’s southwest London site ceased when the foreclosure was announced.

The iPhone maker is expected to move 1,400 workers from several Apple offices in London to the new 500,000 square foot space, which will occupy six floors of the former coal-fired power plant (shown on the cover of Pink Floyd’s album “Animals” ).

“We have concluded that, in light of government requirements and directives, the site is expected to remain closed for the next few weeks,” said Simon Murphy, boss of Battersea Power Station Development Company, on March 31.

“During this period, the only people working on the site will be our security team and a skeleton staff performing essential maintenance. Offsite work and design activity will continue where possible to ensure that we are in the best possible position when we restart on site. “

Apple originally hoped the office would be ready in 2021, but that date could also be pushed back.

Apple declined to comment when contacted by CNBC.

Construction companies want to go back to work. Homebuilder Persimmon started sending workers back to the sites on Monday, although new safety protocols are in place.

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