Downtown San Jose Student Housing Tower Gets Approved by Planning Director

San Jose SWENSON AMCAL Equities LLC San Jose State University VTA South First Area District Downtown Residential Retail Student Housing
The Graduate – courtesy of SWENSON

By Jacob Bourne

“The Graduate” student housing project at 300 South Second Street in San Jose was approved at a Planning Director’s hearing on March 22. Co-developers, AMCAL Equities LLC and SWENSON are combining six parcels into a 1.45-acre site to construct a 19-story mixed-use high-rise. An existing surface parking lot along with two commercial buildings containing a former McDonalds and TechShop will be demolished prior to the start of construction this summer; TechShop will be relocating to 38 South Second Street in April. Building permits have been submitted for The Graduate and the build-out is expected to take between 32 and 35 months. SWENSON is also functioning as the project’s designer and general contractor.

“We started our relationship with AMCAL as they lead the development of student housing in the state,” said Joshua Burroughs, senior development director, SWENSON. “They’ve done a lot of projects in the California State system. The relationship began because they hadn’t done this type of high-rise construction before, and we’ve set ourselves up as experts in tower construction for Downtown.”

The project, reaching 202 feet in height, will provide 260 housing units containing a total of 1,039 beds and 14,800 square feet of ground floor commercial-retail along East San Carlos and South Third Streets. Although legislation prohibits placing restrictions on who can occupy the units, the residential component will target students attending nearby San Jose State University.

The “L-shaped” tower drops down dramatically to a parking structure containing the bulk of amenity space on a 24,380 square foot recreational deck fronting South Second Street. A pool, spa, two bocce courts and an outdoor seating area are featured on the deck. The parking structure underneath offers 265 spaces in one below grade and three above grade levels. In an attempt to encourage students to bike to class, 577 bicycle spaces are included in the plans in lieu of additional car spots. Other building amenities are on the second through fourth floors offering study rooms, a sauna, steam rooms, yoga studio, multipurpose room and fitness facility.

“It’s a large project that would bring a lot of students into Downtown near the University,” said Emily Lipoma, senior planner. “Staff found the project to be consistent with the General Plan designation for Downtown as it fits in with the mix of uses, high density and ground floor retail uses. The architecture was also found to be consistent with the surrounding character.”

The developers are now in the process of reaching out to potential commercial-retail tenants that would ideally cater to the entire Downtown as well as be appropriate for students, such as a healthy dining option. The project will be completely independent from San Jose State University and the development team is currently interviewing some large, national property management companies that have experience with student housing.

“We’re really excited about having a different kind of tower project Downtown,” Burroughs commented. “It’s an opportunity to cater to students. San Jose State is a gem of Downtown — it’s one of the biggest economic activators for the area. Over 1,000 students will activate the South First Area District, which is a really cool and unique neighborhood of Downtown. We’re excited about what the project will bring to that neighborhood.”

The project site is in close proximity to the San Antonio South VTA Light Rail Station and several bus routes. There’s also an abundance of eateries, coffee shops and bars in all directions. Nearby cultural and entertainment venues include the San Jose Museum of Art, The Tech Museum of Innovation, California Theatre and Broadway San Jose.

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