What Lies Beneath Google’s Chelsea Gulp?

Google’s recent Big Apple expansion has fueled speculation that the search engine giant has serious plans in the city.

Last week, The Observer reported online that the Mountain View, Calif.-based company closed on approximately 130,000 square feet of space at Chelsea Market at 75 Ninth Avenue. The new space sits directly across the street from 76 Ninth Avenue, Google’s main New York headquarters, where they occupy approximately 360,000 square feet.

To put this expansion in perspective, Google’s Manhattan presence in 2002 was limited to 23,000 square feet at 1440 Broadway. Today, five years later, the company has just south of 500,000 square feet of space in Manhattan.

In typical fashion, representatives for Google have remained tight-lipped about its intentions.

Ellen West, director of global communications and public affairs, wrote in an e-mail: “I can confirm that Google has leased office space in Chelsea Market to allow for continued growth in our New York office. We have nothing further to announce at this time.”

Those who have followed the company closely do not find this surprising.

“Google is the Area 51 of the IT industry,” Charles King, president of Pund-It Research, told The Observer.

Mr. King did offer some speculation of his own, though. He noted that the additional space could be a sign that Google is looking to expand into industries that are centered in New York.

“Google is a very ambitious company that has its sights set on making a difference in a number of areas,” Mr. King said. “With the role that New York plays in both the media and financial worlds, having a facility that can support Google offerings to both these sectors makes sense.”

Mr. King also implied that Google may be looking to dip into Manhattan’s massive talent pool.

“Many people like to think of Silicon Valley as the navel of technology enlightenment,” he said. “I think Google wants to branch out and go where the talent lies, and New York City is definitely one of those places.”

A logical line of reasoning, but perhaps there is a more technical reason for their massive New York presence.

According to eWeek’s Google Watch Web site, Google’s choice of 76 Ninth Avenue for its headquarters was not an accident. The Web site noted that the property sits on a massive fiber-optic network, extremely valuable for a company like Google, which depends on the rapid relay of information.

Technology analyst Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group, told The Observer that these hubs are critical to the company’s strategy because they help dramatically reduce the delay when information is transferred during a Google search.

“Think of it as their version of a massive telephone central office, and it will likely only get bigger over time,” Mr. Enderle wrote in an e-mail.

Mr. Enderle speculated that the additional 130,000 square feet of space will likely also be used for regional affairs and sales for the East Coast. On the New York section of their job Web site, Google is currently offering 40 openings in the sales and human resources divisions.

Whatever their long-term plans may be in New York, Google is operating like they normally do: thinking big and keeping things close to the vest until the last minute.

“Google is being very secretive with regard to their long-term strategy,” Mr. Enderle wrote. “But it appears to be very aggressive.” What Lies Beneath Google’s Chelsea Gulp?