For months, rumors have been rippling through the Venice real-estate crowd that Google might be buying up the iconic Gold's Gym on Hampton Drive, and possibly the Digital Domain building next door.
And for months, we haven't been able to confirm. But Jason Stern, a local blogger who focuses on Venice Beach's body-building culture — which is dying out, he says, as the funky coastal village transforms into SoCal's own Silicon Beach — says he finally got someone to go on the record with the rumor. The source's name is Ed Connors…
… and he's one of the guys who took the Golds enterprise national in the early 1980s. Here's what Connors alleges on the Muscle Week blog:
According to former Gold's Gym Venice owner Ed Connors, Google has bought the building and the surrounding real estate, with grand designs on walling off the streets and creating a SoCal campus to rival its Mountain View 'university'.
… For the record, Ed Connors — the man who sold Gold's to its current owners — is already eulogizing the gym he helped create: “It's a shame if they [Gold's Gym International] are going to let a piece of history just disappear but sadly I think that's what is going to happen.”
We've contacted everyone in our own Venice rolodex to corroborate Connors' story, but so far we've got nothing.
Google got its foot in the door in January 2011 when it moved into a 100,000-square-foot, Frank Gehry-designed office on Main Street (with a fitting sculpture of binoculars out front). That building is just a block from Golds.
Digital Domain, the same entertainment-tech company who vacated its piece of the Gehry building on Main Street so that Google could move in, now occupies the large plot next to Golds. So we know the two companies are friendly. When we called Domain's front desk, however, the guy on the other end of the line hung up as soon as we mentioned a possible move-out date.
[Update: Google spokesman Jordan Newman says via email, “We have no immediate plans to expand.”
But for what it's worth, Connors says the Gold's Gym lease isn't up until summer 2014, which wouldn't really count as “immediate.”]
If the search-engine empire really is planning to open Googleplex 2.0 on the quaint, crimey streets of Venice, we can think of more than a few neighborhood activists who'll go ballistic. This same Gold's lot once served as meathead capital USA, and is stained in the ghost sweat of ripped demi-gods like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Morrison.
A Google takeover would also pretty much complete the area's gentrification process — initiated a couple years ago when Whole Foods moved in at Rose and Lincoln, and currently going through its final growing pains as rich residents fight to kick the storied Venice bums off their beloved “Skid Rose.” (They were already kicked off the boardwalk last year.)
Stern, the Muscle Week blogger, offers Google a bit of advice:
My recommendation is that Google use its considerable wealth to purchase Gold's Gym Venice, make it the official gym for Google employees, and rename it — wait for it… GOOGLE'S GYM. Problem solved.
That's unlikely. Although everyone was raving back in January 2011 about the economy revv that 6,000 new Google employees would bring to Venice, the Main Street office has remained an isolated bubble. Cafe owners in the area who were expecting an influx of young techies are mystified, saying they're nowhere in sight.
Will the bubble now swallow two whole city blocks? Check back for updates. Meanwhile, to fuel your nightmares, here's the Googleplex campus in Mountain View: