Microsoft opens new office in Berkeley, a first for the East Bay

The company wanted space to consolidate the two artificial intelligence companies it purchased in 2019 — and to be close to UC Berkeley.

Berkeley Way West building on Shattuck Avenue (at Berkeley Way). Microsoft took over the seventh floor. Photo: UC Berkeley Capital Strategies

Microsoft, the Washington State behemoth, has moved into the seventh-floor offices in the Berkeley Way West building it rented in 2019.

The company took over a 27,000-square-foot space with commanding views of San Francisco Bay and the Berkeley hills to bring together two artificial intelligence companies it purchased last year.

Berkeley-based  Semantic Machines and Bonsai are now part of the Autonomous Systems team “dedicated to developing AI technologies that push innovation to the next level,” according to a to Microsoft blog post posted Jan. 21.

The move completes a goal UC Berkeley set when it constructed the new building — to lease out the top three floors of the eight-story building to help pay for its debt service, according to Kyle Gibson, director of communications for UC Berkeley capital strategies. The engineering department took the eighth floor and A3 Ventures, the innovation lab of AAA Northern California, took the sixth floor.

Most of the building, which opened in the fall of 2018, is taken up by academic departments, such as the School of Public Health, the psychology department and the Graduate School of Education.

A number of restaurants and food establishments rent space on the ground level, including Noah’s Bagels and Marugame Udon.

Once the building debt is paid off, the office space will “revert to  University occupancy” according to a university statement.

The interior atrium of the Berkeley Way West building on Shattuck Avenue. Photo: UC Berkeley Capital Strategies

The building provides the first Class A office space built in Berkeley in 40 years. Rent is about $4 to $4.50 a square foot, said Gibson, which is significantly higher than the average Berkeley office rental space of $3.40 a square foot. But it is much lower than Class A office rent in Oakland or San Francisco.

Interest in office space at the Berkeley Way building, at 2121 Shattuck Ave., was high because many companies wanted to be close to UC Berkeley and public transportation, said Gibson.


Indeed, Microsoft officials mentioned the space’s proximity to “Berkeley’s learning culture,” as one reason to open an office in Berkeley — its first in the East Bay. The open-floor plan was critical to Microsoft’s decision to take the office, according to its blog.

“Having a physical presence near UC Berkeley, a renowned institution for research and education, complements the academic nature and learning mind-set of the teams located here,” the company wrote in its post.

“The space is specifically designed to drive collaboration in a modern, welcoming environment. It is geared toward driving interaction not only with the teams there, but also the local academic community. Microsoft is a proud sponsor of the Berkeley Artificial Intelligence Research (BAIR) lab, co-located in the building, as well as the Real-Time Intelligent Secure Explainable Systems (RISE) lab, and Simons Institute. The proximity to these groups enables Microsoft to be a better partner, connect with others through  research, and educate students on the opportunities available to them when exploring careers in technical fields.”

Berkeleyside first reported Microsoft had secured a lease in April. The San Francisco Chronicle was the first to report the company had moved in.

Frances Dinkelspiel is co-founder and executive editor of Berkeleyside. Email: frances@berkeleyside.com.