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Shiny new Apple headquarters plan in Cupertino clears hurdle
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CUPERTINO  (AP) — Apple Inc.'s plans for a massive new campus in Silicon Valley that former CEO Steve Jobs likened to a spaceship are moving forward.

The planning commission in Cupertino, where Apple's current headquarters is also based, endorsed the estimated $5 billion project this week, the San Jose Mercury News reported. It now goes on to the full City Council, which is expected to vote on it on Oct. 15.

Plans call for nearly 3.5 million square feet of new office space, a 1,000-seat auditorium and a fitness center on the 176-acre campus. Apple would demolish existing office and research and development buildings.

Much of the area is the former campus of Hewlett-Packard. Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's director of real estate and facilities, told the planning commission the HP campus was a "sea of asphalt," and 80 percent of it would be turned into open space under Apple's plan.

The main, ring-shaped building that would go up would be a little more than 2.8 million square feet alone. The entire project is expected to be completed in 2016.

Jim Reed with the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce said the project is important for Cupertino and the region's overall economy.

Apple has said it expects to increase its Silicon Valley workforce by nearly 50 percent during the next three years, adding 7,400 more workers in Cupertino. Apple now employs about 16,000 people in and around Cupertino, the company's hometown for most of its 37-year history.

An environmental review has found the headquarters will have significant traffic impacts along a nearby freeway and roads. Apple says it aims to get more than one-third of its employees on its charter bus program or some other form of transportation other than personal vehicles to work. Currently, 28 percent of Apple employees travel to work using something other than their own car.

"It's an aggressive goal, but one we think we can achieve," Whisenhunt told the commission.