Facebook May Move Headquarters from Palo Alto to Empty Sun Campus in Menlo Park

After spending almost its entire six years of existence in Palo Alto, Facebook is considering a move six miles up the road to a somewhat remote campus on the border between Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, east of the 101. Occupied by Sun Microsystems, the troubled computer maker that was bought by Oracle last year, the 57-acre bayside office park has been lying dormant in the past year.

Facebook employees have been whispering about a possible move to Menlo Park for weeks, but TechCrunch reported the location on Saturday, and the company responded with a statement that could shortly turn into a confirmation: “We are exploring options for a long-term location to fit our growing business needs. We are in the due diligence phase on one potential site, but it would be premature to offer any specifics. We hope to have more to share in the near future once things have been finalized.”

Workers are currently preparing at least one building for Facebook to begin moving into by June, the San Jose Mercury News reports today. The building, which is assessed at $228.4 million, could be sold to Facebook in a leaseback deal at the market price of up to $420 million, according to TechCrunch. In that scenario, Facebook would sell the property to some form of real estate investment trust, then buy it back over the years through what amounts to rental payments, and by doing so free up hundreds of millions of dollars for other purposes in the meantime.

Why this New Location?

Facebook has been quickly growing its workforce as its traffic around the world has boomed to slightly under 600 million users, and as it has brought in new revenues of up to $2 billion.

The worldwide headcount is likely around 2,000 today. While it has been opening up big new offices in places like Austin, Texas and Hyderabad, India, it has made a point of keeping its core engineering and product teams at its headquarters — the point being to aid communication around development. It needs more space at home base.

It moved from its hodgepodge of offices in downtown Palo Alto in early 2009 to one, and then two locations off of Page Mill Road: combined, its current headquarters provide around 400,000 square feet of office space, versus the 1 million or so available in the Sun campus.

The new facility promises the same sort of long-term physical expansion that Google had after its move last decade from Palo Alto to the old Silicon Graphics facility a few miles south along the bay, in Mountain View. Over the years, as it has grown by thousands of employees, Google steadily bought its way into more and more buildings nearby to house its new efforts.

Like Google’s headquarters, Facebook’s new location will require either a car commute through heavy traffic (or shuttle, for employees), or a long bus or bicycle trip into the outskirts of the bay. One bit of good news for bicycle commuters: the new location offers covered storage sheds, indoor showers and other amenities to make the trip easier.

[Top image via teduh/Flickr, bottom image via Bing Maps.]