A big office lease in downtown Oakland, Calif., suggests merchant processor Square Inc. is about to embark on a big expansion.
Square on Thursday signed a lease for an entire 356,000-square-foot building that once was a Sears department store and after that was briefly owned by the ride-sharing firm Uber. The building now known as Uptown Station reportedly has room for 2,000 employees. Square initially will staff it with 300 to 500 workers once it’s ready for occupancy in late 2019, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Oakland lease comes after Square added about 100,000 square feet of space to its San Francisco headquarters earlier this year. The company said in a statement that it “plans to maintain a significant presence” in San Francisco.
A Square spokesperson refused to disclose the company’s current head count or say what the Oakland employees will be doing. But in its latest annual report, Square, which has several offices besides its San Francisco facility, said it had 2,338 full-time employees as of Dec. 31, 2017. That means the new Oakland offices could accommodate nearly the entire full-time staff as of a year ago. Square also has an undisclosed number of part-time workers and uses consultants.
Square has constantly added products and services since it introduced its card-accepting dongles for iPhones about nine years ago. Most recently, the company said it would resume its quest for a Utah industrial bank charter. If granted, the charter would enable Square to offer loans and other banking services directly to its merchants.
“As Square grows, its main hiring needs will be in customer service and fraud prevention,” Gil Luria, director of research at D.A. Davidson & Co.’s equity capital markets unit in Portland, Ore., says by email. “The closest comparable company is PayPal, which employs thousands of people around the world in those two functions.”
Local press reports described Square’s Oakland lease as one of the biggest ever in the city, which has mostly missed out on the tech boom in nearby Silicon Valley and San Francisco just across the bay. Square reportedly will be the biggest tech company in the city once it moves in.
“We’re excited to join the Oakland community as a partner, an advocate, a neighbor, and a customer of local businesses,” Square chief executive Jack Dorsey said in a statement. “As we continue to grow, we want to support our employees wherever they are so they can work and invest in the communities in which they live.”
Square said it would not build a large corporate cafeteria in Uptown Station; such cafeterias have generated opposition from California restaurants claiming lost business. Instead, the building’s developer will turn the first floor into a “grand paseo” featuring restaurants and stores, according to Square.
The Oakland facility ultimately may not be a sign of a big Square expansion if the company simply moves most of its San Francisco employees there. San Francisco voters in November approved Proposition C, a controversial plan to raise the city’s gross-receipts tax on large companies to fund services for the homeless. Square opposed the measure, but said it made its expansion plans before the Prop C vote, according to the Chronicle. Oakland also has a gross-receipts tax, but it’s lower than San Francisco’s.