Ampex Ghosts Lure Startups

  • San Francisco Business Times
  • January 29, 1999
  • Lorna Fernandes

The ideal location for a company is usually near similar companies because of the synergy that flows between them.

But in the case of the Mid-Point Technology Park, it's the site's former tenants who are inspiring new ones to sign on.

The San Francisco-based The Martin Group's eventual million-square-foot technology park was home to Ampex, Silicon Valley's onetime leader in data-storage technology. For 30 years, the Redwood City site was home to up to 3,500 Ampex employees, a number that gradually dwindled to 350 as the company shrunk to stay afloat.

Ampex eventually sold the 46-acre parcel to The Martin Group in 1996.

The renovation included demolition of obsolete buildings, and seismic retrofitting of all new buildings, sky-lights and facades.

Now, Mid-Point Technology Park is home to some of the Valley's most vibrant new companies, including Excite, @Home and Broadvision.

"Everything that is built is leased up," said Richardson Watkins, managing director of The Martin Group.

And the fast-growing internet tenants are gobbling up more space to support their needs.

Construction for an additional 385,000 square feet for @Home is scheduled to begin this spring, with another 104,000 square feet due to come online next year.

The Martin Group was among the first developers to build on previously developed property.

"We felt there was the potential to reuse a product that had been under-utilized because the previous product had been obsolete," Watkins said.

The new campus was designed to accommodate the culture of the young upstarts.

The developers added skylights to the old Ampex warehouse and placed catwalks linking offices on either side of the building. Two "people slides" link the second floor to ground level, making for a playful, quick way to go downstairs. Bikes are scattered throughout the park to allow employees to ride to buildings on errands.

"We were looking for a product that was different - we wanted it to be appealing to the new software companies," Watkins said. "We were reading the tea leaves so the timing was right."