Time Inc. may sell Sunset campus in Menlo Park


By Dave Boyce and Almanac staff

The news that Time Inc. is considering selling its property at 80 Willow Road, the iconic home of Sunset magazine, elicited a mixture of sadness and resolve in Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller.

"If they leave, I just think it's a tremendous loss for the city," Mr. Mueller said Thursday. "Obviously we'll make ourselves available to see if there's anything we can do to keep them staying, but it's very concerning."

Sunset's employees were informed of the situation on Friday, Nov. 7, Jill Davison of Time Inc., Sunset's parent company, told the Almanac. The story was first reported in the San Jose Mercury News.

The company is in the process of engaging a local real estate agent, Ms. Davison said.

There are "absolutely no plans" to sell the magazine, Ms. Davison told the Mercury News.

The seven-acre property, located at Willow and Middlefield roads, is zoned C-1 for administrative and professional offices.

The campus

In 1951, Sunset moved from San Francisco to its landmark campus in Menlo Park. In 1952, locals Bill and Mel Lane took over company operations from their father, Lawrence W. Lane, who had bought the magazine for $65,000 in 1928, when it was a fledgling travel magazine.

After looking at several locations in the Bay Area -- "Hillsborough wouldn't have us," said Mel -- the Lane family settled on Menlo Park.

Sunset was one of the first tenants in the city's innovative garden office zone, established under Mayor Charles Burgess, according to a 1998 Almanac article by Marion Sofky. "There were no electric signs, no commercial retail and no manufacturing. It was perfect," said Mel Lane.

Residential architect Cliff May designed his first commercial building to resemble an early Spanish ranch home. Set on seven acres adjacent to San Francisquito Creek, the adobe building with the patios and test kitchens was surrounded by spacious gardens designed by Thomas Church. "It became a laboratory for western living and model for what the magazine promoted," said Bill Lane in the 1998 article.

The elegant new headquarters also became a popular tourist destination as Gray Line made it a stop on its tours, and residents brought friends and out-of-town visitors to peer into the kitchens and stroll through the gardens. There was a time when 75,000 people a year took the Sunset tour, Ms. Softky wrote.

The Lane brothers sold the company to Time Warner in 1990 for $225 million. Mel Lane died in 2007 and Bill Lane in 2010.

In recent years, the Sunset headquarters at 80 Willow Road has hosted an annual "Sunset Celebration Weekend" event for two weekend days in the spring, when thousands of people visited the campus for cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, and programs on gardening, home designs and green living.

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Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Hulkamania is a registered user.

When I worked for a supplier to Sunset I had plenty of opportunities to wander through both the north and south buildings. Beautiful place.

Sadly, with all the open space they have, it will be a developers dream property.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2014 at 3:16 pm

I sense vultures circling.

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