Hey Google, Maine’s not giving you any of these mystery barge permitting problems. Why not build them all here?

The saga of the Google barges continues.

The latest news in the tale of the confounding, floating, four-story structures comes out of San Francisco, where government officials have reportedly given their local version of the project extra scrutiny and are saying the technology giant doesn’t have the appropriate permits to build a barge-based showroom in that Treasure Island location.

In short: The state of California is telling Google it needs to move its boat.

The Portland tie-in, of course, is that Google has a similar barge docked at Maine’s largest city. While there doesn’t appear to be any permit discrepancies plaguing the barge in Portland, where Cianbro has been contracted to work on the structure, it seems “Google barge” news intrigues readers wherever there’s a Google barge.

In the aftermath of Gov. Paul LePage’s State of the State address, during which Maine’s business friendliness was a key topic, Google’s troubles with California perhaps begs the question: Why not build all of the mystery barges here?

The background here, in case you’ve missed it, is that back in October, one of these squarish floating buildings came to Portland from New London, Conn., where it had been the topic of intense speculation and shrouded in secrecy by contractors.

At the time, rumors circulated that the thing was anything from a floating prison to an innovative movie set. A subsequent investigation by the tech publication C|Net found that Google was the ‘Great and Powerful Oz’ behind a replica structure floating in San Francisco Bay, and the dots were easily connected to show the company was pulling the strings in Portland as well.

scoobyBy December, Google had owned up to the whole conspiracy (“And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!”) and admitted the structures would be used as trendy, traveling product showrooms.

And that was more or less where things have been for a while.

Until recently, when state agencies in the Golden State took a closer look and determined Google didn’t have the documentation to be building the structures in the location where it was doing it.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Treasure Island Development Authority, which leased the space to Google to do the work, may also face fines and penalties for its role in the ordeal.

Google may be happy to know it’s not getting such a headache from local or state regulators here in Maine (at least none that have been widely publicized). The company supposedly has plans for multiple floating retail stores. I’d suggest moving all that work to Portland, which just last year was named one of Techie.com’s “10 Most Unexpected Cities For High-Tech Innovation.”

For those Portlanders interested in what the structure might look like when it’s finished, check out this architect’s rendering dislodged into the public realm by a Freedom of Information Act filing with the Port of San Francisco by SFGate.com:

google barge

That compares to this photo I took of the Google barge here in Portland:

mystery ship


Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.