This week, Lisa McCabe flew to San Francisco for the ULI 2015 Fall Meeting. Her first day, Lisa had the pleasure of touring the headquarters of Air BNB and Twitter. Here are her notes from the day:

Twitter 1355 Market Square

The 1M SF urban campus is part of a Shorenstein redevelopment project of an almost vacant 1937 furniture mart building, and the adjacent 1974 warehouse. The project consists of two adjacent buildings (the larger with 80,000 SF floor plates and the smaller with 35,000 SF floor plates) connected by a street that was vacated and turned into a quasi-public outdoor commons area between the two buildings. Construction began in 2010 with Twitter occupying in 2011. Twitter originally leased 215,000 SF and has grown to 750,000 SF, accommodating roughly 3,000 employees. Other tenants include Yammer and Runway.

The vibe here is hip, casual and creative — the space buzzes with energy. The building has exposed concrete columns and structure, and is finished with reclaimed wood from an original non-conforming roof structure. The wood clads the lobby walls along with art installations of old bronze mailboxes and other found objects from the original building.

Key amenities/features:

  • Space to park over 400 bikes, with only 385 parking stalls available for cars.
  • Incredible roof top deck for Twitter’s exclusive use plus street level commons with great retail, outdoor fire pit, landscaping.
  • Diverse types of spaces available to employees. For every bench seat allotted to each employee, there is a corresponding seat in a different type of space available: conference room, war room, phone room, library, cafe, break out room, etc.
  • Focus on locally sourced materials, finishes, food, etc. The celebration of local culture is unique to each of Twitter’s worldwide offices.

Other notable facts:

  • 40% of Twitter employees bike to work.
  • 65% live in the city of San Francisco.
  • Shorenstein purchased property for $112/SF at a time when the office market was at a 30% vacancy rate. The original renovation budget was $80M with expected rents at $27-$32/RSF Gross. The final renovation budget exceeded $200M. The property is currently 100% leased with last lease signed at $69/RSF, modified gross.

AirBNB 888 Brannan St.

The neighborhood is a bit gritty, but is gentrifying. You are welcomed in a bright atrium featuring a living wall. The rooms in the office are designed to mimic rooms in favorite AirBNB listings. They have raw finishes, reclaimed wood, and except for the area where the engineers work, the space is filled with light. Only engineers work at dedicated desks; all others have individual cubbies for storing personal belongings but are free to sit where they prefer, and there are a number of different types of spaces available to choose from. Housing about 1,200 employees, the work space is all open with no private offices. There is an emphasis on choice, mobility and collaboration in day to day activities. Everyone carries a laptop, and usually in a rolling briefcase.

Best things I saw:

  • Employee with a watermelon skateboarding from one end of the office to the other.
  • Reconstructed “mushroom house” within AirBNB’s space; one of the company’s very first listings.
  • Incredible living wall that takes one week each month to prune.

Photo Gallery: Twitter HQ

Photo Gallery: AirBNB HQ