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Structues: Bringing the outdoors in proves key strategy

Silicon Valley Business Journal

Bixby Land Company unpacked a couple of tired 1980s-era buildings in Santa Clara from their mothballs and combined them into Bixby@Coronado, a modern and efficient corporate headquarters campus with the type of amenities that attracted the attention of a tech company with a brand new spanking IPO.

The $5.5 million project replaced outdated mechanical systems with efficient new ones, let in natural light with glass and open floor plans, and landscaped with drought-tolerant vegetation. Beyond that, it tied the two buildings together into a single entity using a two-story steel-frame-and-glass pavilion that serves as a campus entrance and connects the floor plates of the two original buildings. Behind the new lobby and conference center, the complex opens into a 4,600-square-foot “outdoor living room” where workers can gather to collaborate or relax.

It was those kinds of unique amenities that appealed to Infoblox Inc., which like most tech firms, wants to offer the kinds of perks that help to retain employees and wants a headquarters environment that can impress the Fortune 1000 executives who are its customers. The network-control automation company will move its headquarters across Highway 101 into Bixby@Coronado as the interior is finished.

"I think this property resonated with us from the very beginning, even before construction was finished," said Shawna Belardi, global real estate and facilities manager for Infoblox. "There's plenty of rehabbed office space in the region, but Bixby's project was no small facelift."

Irvine-based Bixby and Studio G Architects Inc. started out with two stand-alone buildings of the former Coronado Corporate Center, where the closest thing to a unified entrance was a trellis bearing an overgrown thicket of flowering vines. Applied Materials Inc. had left the property at 3111 Coronado Drive vacant when it consolidated manufacturing operations at another site, said Bixby vice president of operations Aaron Hill.

"I thought it had potential,” said Kelly Simcox, principal with Studio G. “The lines of the original buildings were strong, but they also were very clean."

One of the key features is the connector, which effectively is a 7,000-square-foot building that was built between two other buildings.

"Structurally it was very challenging," Simcox said. "It redefined the entire character of the building butit also created the protected courtyard."

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The outdoor gathering space includes couches, a fountain, trees, fire tables and an outdoor kitchen. The lobby portion of the pavilion also includes comfortable seating in an airy, bright space that can serve tenants as well as visitors to the building.

"The idea is to not be cooped up and to have some other environments for workers," Hill said.

Simcox got a sense of the success of the design when Infoblox was still negotiating to lease the property. A good friend of hers works for the company, and on occasion they would go to dinner, where the friend kept talking about a "new building" where Infoblox wanted to move. Eventually, they realized the building in question was the Bixby project, she said.

"He kept referring to it as a 'new building,' and for me that fundamentally validated what we were trying to do architecturally," Simcox said.