Oracle is betting big on Austin.
The California-based company unveiled its new corporate campus in Southeast Austin this week, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison said he expects it to eventually grow to 10,000 employees.
“We have a handful of hubs in the United States, and Austin is one of the key places we want to be because that’s where we think our people want to be,” Ellison said at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday evening.
Oracle has spent nearly two years building the Austin campus on a prime waterfront property southeast of downtown. Along with its original land purchase, Oracle bought a new apartment complex, called Azul, just steps from its new office building as a housing option for its employees.
The campus, an investment of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Redwood Shores, Calif.-based software company, is expected to be transformative for a part of town along East Riverside Drive that is rapidly gentrifying with hundreds of new luxury housing units.
Ellison, who made a surprise appearance at the event, told the crowd that Oracle likes to build near water so that employees can go rafting or kayaking during their lunch hour.
When Oracle was first considering Central Texas for expansion, Ellison said he refused to get out of the car when he was taken to look at a property in Cedar Park. He said he demanded to be taken to Central Austin, where brokers told him there was only one property, which was the one Oracle purchased.
“This was a pasture, and we had to build all of this from the ground up,” he said.
In fact, the 40-acre property off South Lakeshore Boulevard was previously home to a low-income apartment complex. The sale generated controversy because it meant demolishing the Lakeview apartments. Tenants sued, alleging that developer Cypress Real Estate Advisors prematurely terminated their leases.
Oracle was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, and the dispute between Cypress and the tenants has since been resolved.
Oracle has since purchased an additional 10 acres adjacent to the new campus. The company’s land holdings in the area were valued at nearly $40 million by the Travis Central Appraisal District. Oracle did not seek incentives for the project.
Ellison said the Austin property was a bargain, and compared it to the price of Oracle CEO Mark Hurd’s house in California. “This is Texas, the prices are like free here,” he said. “You buy one home in California, Mark’s home, actually, costs about the same as this.”
The sleek 560,000-square-foot Austin campus was designed to attract recent college graduates. It includes outdoor terraces with views of downtown, a fitness center, “huddle rooms” and a “tech bar” to give employees the ability to get computers and devices repaired quickly.
Other amenities include a full-service cafeteria, a gym, a food truck court, game rooms and business training and conference rooms Smaller kitchens and meeting rooms are spread throughout, and a Starbucks in the lobby often has a line.
Oracle, the second largest software company in the world, has about 1,500 employees at the campus now. Many are recent college recruits who are part of the company’s “Class Of” training program.
The company is aggressively working to attract young talent as it shifts its focus to the cloud and builds hubs for those sales groups.
“I think this facility is going to grow to about 10,000 people,” Ellison said. “We have big plans.”