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San Francisco Business Times

August 19, 2013

Sneak peek: Yelp’s new San Francisco HQ set to open

By J.K. Dineen

You can say this about the historic Pacific Telephone tower at 140 New Montgomery: they are going to love it on Yelp.

With Novo Construction workers scrambling to prepare for the first of 700 Yelp workers set to move into the building over Labor Day weekend, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman Monday gave Mayor Ed Lee and his media entourage a hard hat tour of the new offices.

The Yelp move-in will mark a milestone not only for the San Francisco-born internet company, but also for one of the city’s most beloved buildings. Designed by Timothy Pfleuger of Miller and Pfleuger, the F-shaped art deco tower has six acres of terra cotta ornamentation with eight eagles perched at the top. It has black marble walls, bronze elevator doors, and a blood red stenciled ceiling inspired by Chinese design. The building, called a “Monument to Talk,” was visited by Winston Churchill, who during his visit in 1929 made one of the first trans-Atlantic phone calls there.

Stoppelman said he was drawn to the building’s history.

“It has a connection to the city that some of the other buildings in the area just don’t have,” he said. “The fact that we could take a beautiful shell, modernize the interior but also have connections to the past is really exciting to us.”

Major renovation work began in February 2012 to improve the building’s seismic performance, install all new mechanical, electric, plumbing and fire sprinkler systems, and preserve and restore the building’s historic lobby. In total about $100 million is being pumped into building. Yelp has leased 110,000 square feet and has an option to take another 35,000 square feet. About 85 percent of the building has been leased.

The building will have two new restaurants, one headed by Mourad Lahlou of Aziza and a café run by Thad Vogler who operates Bar Agricole. There will also be a sculpture garden in the courtyard area once the building is complete.

The building is owned by Wilson Meany.

“Even with all of the new technology going in the building, state of the art tenant improvements, you can walk into the space and it actually looks today more like it did in 1926 than it has in 50 years,” said Wilson Meany Partner Chris Meany.

Stoppelman said there was never any question about Yelp staying in San Francisco, even though rents in the city are steep.

“For us imaging ourselves not in an urban environment is pretty difficult,” he said. “As a magnet for talent it’s hard to beat San Francisco these days.”

The Yelp tenant improvements are being done by Novo Construction. Novo Project Manager Doug Barbero said the project team had to overcome tricky logistics because base building was being completely renovated at the same time as the Yelp tenant improvements. Thus while the elevators were being replaced, tradesmen were carried up and down in an exterior man lift.

“The vertical access was the biggest obstacle by far,” he said. “We staggered start time for the different trades,. You could have 300 guys waiting for the lift.”

Mayor Lee compared Yelp to Pacific Bell.

“When Pac Bell was here that was the innovative company of its time,” he said. “Yelp is like the new talk, a modern communications company that helps small business.”

Read the original story here.