Originally deemed a light industrial zone by the university, by the mid-1950s the district became a site of research and development focused around scientific and technology industries. By the 1970s, the area was referred to as the Stanford Research Park, in part reflecting an aspiration and a focus on research and development.
In 1951, Stanford University set aside 209 acres for light manufacturing. It's earliest tenants included Stanford graduates, Sigurd and Russell Varian of Varian Associates, William Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett-Packard, as well as General Electric, Lockheed, and Eastman Kodak. In 1955 the Park boasted seven tenants and leased fifty-three acres; by 1962 that figure rose to forty-two leases on 360 acres, which continued to rise by the early 1970s to fifty tenants occupying 500 acres and employing 17,000 people. By the end of the 1970s, Stanford was earning $4.3 million per year for the university and $13.5 million in tax revenue and utility payments to the city of Palo Alto.
The site adhered to strict design standards set by the university. The Industrial Park adhered to a suburban campus aesthetic. Building heights were limited to no more than two stories, smokestacks were forbidden, noise and emissions were prohibited, parking lots were located behind buildings, and sites were well-landscaped areas of patios, lawns, trees, and shrubs meant to reside neatly alongside the university's well-to-do neighbors.
The Stanford Industrial Park also benefitted from its close ties to the university, a policy implemented by Frederick Terman, a Stanford professor of radio engineering and, later, dean of engineering (1944-1959) and provost of the university (1955-1965). Terman had gotten his start by directing research projects at Cambridge, Massachusetts, during World War II, where he saw first-hand the close relationship between government and universities. Returning to Stanford in 1945, he was convinced from his wartime experience that the university could attract funds from government and corporate sources while simultaneously bolstering Stanford's reputation as a major research university. Using Harvard as the model, Terman implemented incentives for research and pursued funding models to attract top scientists and engineers from around the country.
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