Vanguard Group received final approval this month for an application to construct two buildings in East Whiteland Township as the company continues its rapid expansion, according to a Vanguard representative and a township official.

The company is in the early planning stages for the first building, which will be adjacent to two existing structures on an 84-acre site beside its sprawling Chester County headquarters in Tredyffrin. The "Malvern West" site is at Route 30 and 209, just off Route 202, said Arianna Stefanoni Sherlock, head of Vanguard's corporate public relations.

The approval comes as the investment company, whose main base of operations is in Malvern, has named a new CEO, Mortimer "Tim" Buckley, a Vanguard veteran who will take over as chief executive from William McNabb at the end of the year.

Vanguard has also recently created an Innovation Studio at 2300 Chestnut St. for up to 100 software professionals, seeking to burnish its information technology cred amid the city's growing tech scene. Vanguard is returning to Center City after having been gone for two decades in a cost-cutting move.

In stark contrast to cutbacks, Vanguard has emerged as a burgeoning financial powerhouse with customer assets quadrupling since 2008. Assets now total about $4.4 trillion, fueled by wider acceptance of Vanguard's signature index funds and a steadily rising stock market. Sherlock said that Vanguard currently has 15,000 workers and that existing buildings are fully occupied.

With more hires on the way, more space is needed, Sherlock said.

In June, Vanguard representatives presented initial plans to the zoning board while requesting variances for the construction, said East Whiteland's zoning officer, Steve Brown.

The board issued final approval Monday, granting variances for parking requirements, restrictions for building heights, and construction on a steep incline. It also granted the company's request to extend the application expiration date from six months to two years.

Brown said Vanguard indicated it wanted to start on the first building immediately, and the second at a later time, with the entire project totaling 420,000 square feet.

The company still has to present building plans, which will require additional approvals, including a review by the township's engineer, Brown said.

Paul Begin, Vanguard's head of global corporate real estate and facilities management, spoke at a Philadelphia Business Journal event for real estate agents on Thursday, announcing that the new structure will be between 180,000 and 240,000 square feet. The story was first reported by the Business Journal.

The plans still must be approved by Vanguard's board of directors, Begin said. The application submitted in June outlines construction on the 87 acres Vanguard bought from Pfizer several years ago when that company was consolidating properties.