HOK co-develops 36-acre innovation hub in Silicon Valley
Above: CGI of proposed Berkeley Space Center at NASA Research Park, California (courtesy HOK)
UC Berkeley (The University of California, Berkeley) and SKS Partners have recently unveiled plans for a 36-Acre R&D hub in the heart of Silicon Valley at NASA’s Ames Research Center, co-master-planned by HOK. The $2 Billion Berkeley Space Center at NASA Research Park would expand the Bay Area’s innovation ecosystem and catalyze transformative discoveries.
As envisioned, the multi-phase development would accelerate the area’s existing innovation ecosystem, catalyzing deeper collaboration between the private, academic and governmental sectors. The joint venture is dedicated to identifying, incubating and launching technological breakthroughs across a diverse set of fields including astronautics, quantum computing, climate studies and the social sciences.
Located within NASA’s Ames Research Center’s NASA Research Park, Berkeley Space Center would be designed from the ground up to foster a collaborative environment with the critical mass and infrastructure needed to expand the frontiers of knowledge and develop tomorrow’s defining technologies. Overall, the development is expected to generate considerable employment opportunities, including more than 6,000 advanced R&D positions.
With a focus on high-growth, high-impact sectors, Berkeley Space Center aims to further cement the State of California as a global innovation leader. The Center’s proposed master plan currently features 1.4 million square feet of Class-A office and R&D space, including wet and dry labs, as well as conference space, academic facilities and retail amenities. The site’s current plans would also offer nearly 18 acres of open space, including outdoor working yards and a central green area which would serve as a flexible platform for community gatherings, activations and exhibitions. Later phases of the project would include short-term stay facilities as well as student and faculty housing.
The site plan prioritizes density, efficiency and diversity of uses for tenants, with all designs geared to ensure a high level of environmental sustainability. Final leasable space is dependent on the final resolution of the master plan and environmental approvals.
Beyond on-site features, users of Berkeley Space Center—including established and start-up companies, researchers and scientists, as well as students and faculty—would benefit from proximity to NASA’s Ames Center. Focused on conducting world-class research and development in aeronautics and exploration technology since 1939, NASA’s Ames Center features the world’s largest wind tunnel, which is capable of simulating gusts up to 100 knots, as well as The NASA Advanced Supercomputing Division, Arc Jet Complex and NASA’s Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS).
Berkeley Space Center would build on and advance the University’s three-part mission of education, research and public service, while taking advantage of the campus’ academic excellence and leadership in emerging fields of inquiry and exploration.
“This planned expansion of Berkeley’s physical footprint and academic reach represents a fantastic and unprecedented opportunity for our students, faculty and the public we serve,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ. “We are thrilled by the prospect of new collaborations that can speed the translation of discoveries by our world-class research enterprise across a wide range of disciplines into the inventions, technologies and services that will advance the greater good. This is a prime location and a prime time for this public university.”
From NASA’s perspective, the Berkeley Space Center development would fulfill a nearly 20-year vision for an interdisciplinary innovation hub on-site at NASA Research Park.
“For NASA, this partnership has the potential to advance world-class research in aviation and space, thus helping improve life here on Earth,” said Eugene Tu, Center director at NASA’s Ames Research Center. “More importantly, Berkeley Space Center could also help inspire the next generation of explorers through future collaborations with the University’s students, faculty and partners.”
In addition to UC Berkeley and SKS Partners, the development team includes the following firms as co-master planners:
HOK, a global design, architecture, engineering and planning firm known for its high-profile, large-scale projects, such as NOAA Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Pearl Harbor, HI, Stanford University School of Medicine Center for Academic Medicine in Palo Alto, CA, and The Francis Crick Institute in London, England.
Field Operations, an interdisciplinary urban design and landscape architecture firm, known for the High Line and Cornell Tech Campus in New York City and the Presidio Tunnel Tops in San Francisco.
“HOK’s deep expertise in aviation and aerospace research facilities, coupled with advanced sustainability and master planning strategies, has been crucial to the design of this unique innovation community,” said Brian Jencek, HOK’s principal-in-charge for the project.
UC Berkeley has, to date, contributed approximately $1 million to the Berkeley Space Center joint venture, in the form of salary for faculty, staff and students working on the project and the academic planning related to the new research park. If the project is approved, Berkeley Space Center would likely incur annual expenses of approximately $750,000 to support the salaries of faculty, staff and students working on the project and at the site.
In return for its investment and partnership, the university would receive a portion of the revenues the real estate development is projected to generate. All told, the university estimates annual revenues of at least $40 million from multiple project-related sources, including grants, research funding, philanthropy, industry partners, fees and the income earned from the real estate revenue.
The priority for university revenues will be the funding of those expenditures needed to ensure Berkeley Space Center is self-sustaining, with any ancillary or secondary financial benefits extending to the core campus, its departments and colleges, and faculty and students. There are also likely to be additional financial benefits derived from the incubation and commercialization of emerging companies born from translation research and technology created at the site.
For the joint-venture partnership, Berkeley Space Center is an opportunity to redefine how large-scale developments are designed, constructed and managed not just from the ground up, but from the underground up. The grounds and the buildings would serve as a testbed to pioneer and advance novel low-carbon design and construction practices.
The development team of Berkeley Space Center has a growing list of ambitious environmental sustainability goals, which at present include:
Pursuit of rigorous building certifications, both LEED and other.
Installation and use of alternative low-carbon energy sources, such as photovoltaic panels for power generation in place of natural gas.
Diversion of the majority of on-site waste.
On-site treatment and retention of storm water.
Use of recycled water for both landscaping and within buildings themselves.
Multiple modes of movement and transportation to and within the site, with a focus on pollution-free mobility.
Phytoremediation, whereby Berkeley Space Center’s landscape design and maintenance will heal groundwater aquifers.
“Similar to how innovations in aerospace research pushed the physical boundaries of where humans can go, Berkeley Space Center aspires to establish new standards for how buildings are designed, constructed and operated to minimize the carbon impact,” said Dan Kingsley, co-founder and managing partner of SKS Partners. “UC Berkeley and SKS Partners share a commitment to building a carbon-free future for humanity, and Berkeley Space Center is the ideal incubator to develop new ideas to achieve that goal.”
The environmental entitlement process has commenced and is expected to last approximately two years, with construction tentatively scheduled to begin in 2026.
The joint-venture partnership has selected CBRE to market the R&D space for lease. The leasing team is ready to initiate discussions with prospective tenants interested in built-to-suit opportunities. To learn more about Berkeley Space Center at NASA Research Park, including potential tenancy opportunities, please visit BerkeleySpaceCenter.com. For more on academic and research initiatives set to take place at the center, please click HERE. About Berkeley Space Center at NASA Research Park
Berkeley Space Center at NASA Research Park (“Berkeley Space Center”) is a Bay Area innovation hub that was envisioned and will be developed by UC Berkeley and SKS Partners. The advanced research and development hub hopes to set a new sustainability standard for large-scale developments and serve as a birthplace for tomorrow’s breakthroughs. Located within NASA Research Park at NASA’s Ames Research Center, the 36-acre mixed-use development will accelerate and expand the Bay Area’s innovation ecosystem, catalyzing advancements across diverse sectors—from aeronautics and quantum computing, to climate studies and the social sciences. To learn more, please visit BerkeleySpaceCenter.com.
The University of California, Berkeley, consistently rated the world’s top public university by Times Higher Education, is the flagship of the 10-campus University of California system, chartered in 1868 with a mission to excel in teaching, research and public service. Enrolling more than 42,000 undergraduate and graduate students, the campus has more than 1,500 full-time and 500 part-time faculty members in more than 130 academic departments that offer more than 350 degree programs. The faculty’s outstanding research achievements and scholarship so far have led to 26 Nobel Prizes, and an additional 35 Nobel Prizes have been won by alumni.
San Francisco-based SKS Partners is an investor in and developer of commercial real estate properties in the western United States. Since its founding in 1992, the firm has acquired, entitled, developed and operated over 10.5 million square feet of office, R&D, medical office, life science, mixed-use and multifamily projects. Through its focus on making a positive impact on the built environment and its track record of innovative developments, including California’s first multi-story, full mass timber development, SKS Partners has established a reputation for its consistent ability to identify emerging demographic and market trends in advance of other market participants.