Rendering of the new Apple store at 340 University Ave., Palo Alto

Apple is building a new store in the heart of Silicon Valley with an extremely high-bandwidth connection to one of the Internet’s major hubs.

With the 16,600-square-foot, two-story store, Apple will be trying out a “new prototype” of its retail environment, according to documents filed with the architectural review board in Palo Alto, Calif., where the store is located. Along with the familiar all-glass storefront and the prominent use of stone, the new store will include interior trees and a skylight.

It will also be linked to one of the busiest and highest-capacity access points on the Internet, theĀ Palo Alto Internet Exchange (PAIX), which will give Apple the ability to demonstrate bandwidth-hungry services — such as live, streaming video — to hundreds of individual customers at a time.

Photographs of the building site at 340 University Ave. in Palo Alto, as well as construction documents filed with the city of Palo Alto, strongly suggest the company’s plans. None of the public documents name Apple, and the storefront does not yet carry the company’s name, but multiple strands of evidence point towards the site’s ultimate tenant being Apple.

  • The architectural firm Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which submitted the architectural review for the site in 2010, has designed many Apple stores around the world.
  • At the time of the architectural review, Palo Alto city officials were convinced Apple would be the store’s ultimate tenant, based on the details of the application. “It was clear, when they said where the sign was going to go and when they talked about the project details, who the tenant would be,” an architectural review board member said, according to Palo Alto Online in 2010. “It was just really obvious.”
  • The construction firm overseeing the remodel of the site is DPR Construction, which also built Apple’s flagship store in downtown San Francisco.

As for the location, it’s just one block from the current Palo Alto Apple store. But the new location is just around the corner from PAIX, on Bryant Street. Located in the old “Telephone Co. Building,” PAIX is an interconnection point for Internet service providers including Equinix, Bell Telephone Canada, and others. Although crowded, this site still offers massive pipes for anyone who needs to send and receive a lot of data and wants to get its equipment close to the Internet’s major backbones. For instance, Facebook is a PAIX tenant.

PAIX is a high-security facility, whose windows have been replaced with opaque barriers. Guards and surveillance cameras guard the site. Behind PAIX and adjacent to the new retail storefront is a large private switching facility for AT&T.

Notably, the current construction connects the Apple store (or whatever it is) with both PAIX and the AT&T building. Plans filed with the city of Palo Alto call for a pedestrian tunnel, presumably leading between the Apple store and the telco facilities next to it.

Why would Apple need such high-bandwidth neighbors for its “prototype” store? Well, one explanation is that it wants to give the best possible showing to new video services, such as a revamped Apple TV. The company was recently reported to be negotiating with cable companies to offer them an Apple-made set-top box that would work with cable services, and it’s reportedly building a Apple TV that will blur the distinction between live and on-demand video.

But what if Apple decided to offer an Apple TV that worked with its own internet service, bypassing the cable providers that have so far rebuffed it? It certainly has the data centers and high-bandwidth server centers capable of delivering live video; it’s long been a leader in streaming video over the internet.

If you were showing off video services to an eager public, you’d want to make extra sure that your storefront had the best, most reliable, highest-bandwidth connections to the Internet. In other words, you’d want to make those connections as close to major interconnection points as possible.

340 University Ave. would be a very good location indeed.

Image credits: VentureBeat, Google Maps, Palo Alto Online