By Meghan Hall
The Diridon Station Area includes more than 240 acres of land adjacent to downtown San Jose and the highly anticipated regional transit hub that will become a center of gravity for the Bay Area’s largest city. On Thursday night, Google revealed its preliminary plans for a third of the Diridon Station Area, a total of 60-acres that it has spent several years and more than $400 million to acquire. The overarching goal, according to Alexa Arena, Google’s director of development, is to provide a framework for a development that would not be known simply as a Google office park, but as a true and holistic extension of San Jose.
“Google is here for the long-haul,” stated Arena on Thursday evening’s Station Area Advisory Group meeting. “I think we have an incredible opportunity here, and having the end-user is so unusual in this situation. It is typically a developer. And there’s some anxiety around that…We are here for the next 100 years, and we need to find a way to coexist really positively with San Jose.”
The Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP), passed in 2014 prior to Google’s involvement in the area, was the original blueprint for the more than 240 acres surrounding Diridon. The DSAP initially allotted for 2,588 residential units, 4.96 million square feet of commercial, research and development, and industrial space, 424,100 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 900 hotel rooms and a 32,000 square foot ballpark.
However, Google’s intended plans for its property within the Station Area are different than those originally outlined in the DSAP, and as such City Staff is working to amend the plan as they review Google’s intentions for the mixed-use development. Anticipated changes to the DSAP include adding development capacity, changing zoning designations and updating the guidelines that dictate design, transportation and public spaces. The original baseball park planned for the area will be removed entirely.
“This summer, City Staff has been working on the scope of these amendments, and they really are focused around two primary areas,” stated Rosalind Hughey, director of planning for the City of San Jose. “First, we will be adding additional development capacity to the Station Area as a result of City Council adoption of taller building heights in downtown and Diridon. And the second key area we will be looking at is changing some of the land-use designations in the existing plan due to changes since 2014.”
For its portion of the site, Google is proposing between 3,000 to 5,000 residential units — already more than the original DSAP allotment for the entire area — as well as 5.5 million square feet of newly-proposed office space, 15 acres of green space and 500,000 square feet of retail, cultural, arts, education, hotel and other active uses.
“Google is just a catalyst for a vision that has just existed for so long,” said Arena of the plans.
The project team includes Lendlease as the development lead, Sitelab Urban Studio as the urban design lead, ARUP for transportation and engineering, Heatherwick Studio for architecture, as well as West 8 and Prior and Partners, among others.
The project team, in all, wants to create a place that is of San Jose, which Arena was careful to note includes a solid mix of uses. “We really want this to be an extension of the city, not an office park,” said Arena. “…Residential, retail, cultural and open spaces, they’re all of the things that create great neighborhoods, great parts of cities.”
50 percent of the site area is designated for office use, while the remaining 50 percent will be residential, arts, cultural, retail, restaurant and open space. In addition, Arena emphasized that the priority is not to hit the maximum building height on every parcel of the property.
“We took what is intuitively the highest value part of the site, right in front of the station, and instead of saying, ‘Let’s maximize the density to maximize our value on that piece of this site,’ We said, ‘let’s maximize the experience and the cultural heart of that site by converting that to make open space and two to three story buildings that can turn into civic buildings of the future.”
The northern portion of the site, according to design diagrams, will be for industrial and creative uses, while the south portion will include more greenery and open spaces. Housing and office will be concentrated in the middle.
Google is expected to submit its application for the property in October of this year, at which time the City of San Jose will begin the official development review process, which also includes the plan’s environmental review. The final iterations of the documents will, if all goes according to plan, be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council in the fall of 2020.