A BLOOMING CAMPUS ... Palo Alto cloud-computing giant VMWare made headlines earlier this year when it took over the massive Stanford Research Park campus formerly occupied by Roche — an acquisition that will allow the company to double its workforce and make it the largest employer in the city. This week, the company delighted the city's Architectural Review Board with its ambitious proposal to create a "campus in the forest" atmosphere at the Hillview Avenue site. The property will feature various groves and pathways, along with a new central plaza, branded "Town Square," featuring fountains, oaks and sycamores. "Visitors arrive and they know they arrived at the new VMWare," said David Walker, the landscape architect for the project. The company, whose campus now makes up close to 3 million square feet, is thinking big. To accommodate the added workforce — which will boost its employee base to roughly 6,000 — it plans to build four new office buildings and three new parking garages, as well as two new "amenity buildings" featuring gyms and food services. The board didn't vote on the project Thursday, but members had words of praise for the company's plans, which will continue to evolve in the coming months before they go through the formal reviews. Board member Judith Wasserman called it "generally a quite wonderful and exciting project," while her colleague Alex Lew called the company's landscaping plans "stunning" and "really beautiful." The board expects to begin its formal review of the project early next year.
A HOLIDAY TREAT ... Palo Alto shoppers will get a slight reprieve from the city's parking laws this holiday season — an extra hour of free parking in the city's garages. The city is extending the length of time drivers can park at all parking garages from three to four hours between now and Jan. 1, 2012. The idea is to support the city's downtown economy during the hopefully busy shopping season, according to an announcement from the city. Visitors can also purchase all-day passes. "Extending the hours ... affords customers the opportunity to linger in downtown Palo Alto to enjoy the unique retail and hospitality experience," Paul Wright, interim CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce, said. The new rules apply to all public downtown garages — City Hall; Bryant Street and Lytton Avenue; Alma and High streets; Cowper and Webster streets; and Ramona Street and University Avenue. They do not apply to designated permit spaces and surface lots. Street parking in color zones will maintain the two-hour limit.
THAT'S WHAT FRIENDS ARE FOR ... The Palo Alto Children's Theatre has much to celebrate these days. This week, supporters of the theater announced that the facility received a National Big Read grant of $12,750, becoming the only children's theater in the nation to get this grant. It will provide funds to engage teens in the novel "In the Time of the Butterflies" by Julia Alvarez, said Sylvia Sanders, president of the Friends of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre board of directors. The booster group also had a surprise for the City Council — an $80,000 check to commemorate the theater's 80th anniversary.
GODDESS-SPEAK ... Tara VanDerveer, Stanford University head women's basketball coach, received the 25th annual Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce Athena Award Wednesday for excellence in her profession and for empowering other women. She credited her mother with keeping her grounded. In August VanDerveer was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but she was characteristically humble as she received the Athena. "I've been called many things in my life, but never a goddess," she joked.
BOOK PRIZE ... Palo Alto library system continues to evolve, but according to one industry publication, it is already one of the best in the nation. For the third straight year, the Library Journal ranked the Palo Alto City Library as one of America's Star Libraries. The ratings are based on library visits, items checked out, attendance at library programs and public Internet use. Mayor Sid Espinosa said in a statement that he was proud — though not surprised — by the latest recognition. "We Palo Altans love our libraries, as evidenced by our citizen-financed library reconstructions, but even more importantly, this national recognition is a tribute to our incredible library staff and volunteers," Espinosa said. "We have world-class libraries because of their hard work every day."