Time Inc. sells Cliff May’s midcentury modern Sunset campus in Menlo Park

Architecture Preservation West
Entrance to Cliff May's Sunset campus (Charles Birnbaum)

Entrance to Cliff May’s Sunset campus (Charles Birnbaum)

After weeks of rumors, Time Inc. earlier this week announced that it had sold Sunset‘s Cliff May–designed, seven-acre campus in Menlo Park, CA to real estate investment firm Embarcadero Capital Partners. Sunset, which has been published in some form or another since 1898, moved into the classic midcentury campus in the 1950s. They will stay through the end of next year.

(Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

Sun filters through the trees at the Sunset Campus. (Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

The company has expressed a desire to remain in the Bay Area (in a letter to employees, Time Inc. Executive Vice President Evelyn Webster wrote, “we will be working together with the Sunset team on a thoughtful search for a new home for our operations after the New Year”), but have not clarified where they will go next.

Sunset Editor-In-Chief Peggy Northrup stresses that the move is less indicative of the company’s financial struggles than of a change in priorities. “You have one of the hottest real estate markets in the world just outside our door. It makes more sense to sell this extremely valuable real estate that’ s not core to our operations and invest that money in our operations,” she said. She listed another reason for the change: “Right now the story of The West is that people are moving into cities. It’s really up to us to follow our readers and not just pretend to live the life that we’re living.”

Architecture and landscape as one (Charles Birnbaum)

Architecture and landscape as one. (Charles Birnbaum)

The campus is an ideal example of 50’s California home and garden interaction, with May’s modern ranch house vernacular merging seamlessly with an expansive landscape (including a 1.2 acre colonial bent grass lawn) and informal patios by Thomas Church. The facility has its own kitchen for testing recipes, and the ever-blooming gardens exhibit species from varying climate zones—ranging from coastal redwoods to southwest chaparral. The Sunset gardens, by the way, are still open for self-guided tours from 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Northrup said she didn’t know how Embarcadero Capital planned use the campus (they could not be reached for comment), but stressed that, “they have a reputation for doing very very nice renovations and really beautiful office developments.”

“It’s all about looking forward,” concluded Northrup. “It’s a new phase for the magazine and it is a much more outward looking phase.”

Shady and grassy landscape by Thomas Church (Charles Birnbaum)

Shady and grassy landscape by Thomas Church. (Charles Birnbaum)

Large trees and an expansive lawn (Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

Large trees and an expansive lawn (Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

One of May's informal garden patios (Charles Birnbaum)

One of May’s informal garden patios.  (Charles Birnbaum)

Informal gardens by Thomas Church (Charles Birnbaum)

Informal gardens by Thomas Church (Charles Birnbaum)

Light floods aSunset Campus interior (Sunset Publishing)

Light floods aSunset Campus interior (Thomas J. Story, Sunset Publishing)

(Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

(Thomas J. Story/ Sunset Publishing)

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