By Nancy Amdur
The Irvine Co. this week announced plans to thicken its Silicon Valley portfolio and presented Santa Clara’s City Council with a proposal to build a mixed-use development at Benton Street and El Camino Real.[contextly_sidebar id=”RXzSVfM3PtpmCbfST0Jm6G8Gmke6571w”]At a study session on Tuesday, representatives of the Newport Beach, Calif.-based development and management company said its proposed Mission Town Center Apartments would comprise 417 one- and two-bedroom units and about 26,000 square feet of retail space. The project would sit on 6.4 acres at 575 Benton St., across from the city’s Caltrain station and Santa Clara University.
Two public open spaces are included in Mission Town Center, including a plaza at El Camino and Benton and a park that will be located on the edge of its property next to the Bill Wilson Center, a nonprofit community organization at 3490 The Alameda.
Irvine Co. officials said they envision a mix of restaurant types—including some with sidewalk seating—at the project to cater to students along with other area residents. Students also likely will be potential tenants for the housing units, city and Irvine officials said. Mission Town Center amenities will include a fitness center and an internal courtyard with a pool. The project carries an assessed value of $227 million and will create 1,300 construction and 234 permanent jobs, said Carlene Matchniff, Irvine’s vice president of entitlement and public affairs for Northern California.
Residents who spoke at the meeting said they looked forward to the project, but their concerns included a possible shortage of parking and the lack of below-market housing included in the plan.
“We look forward to working with the city and the community throughout the public planning process,” said Robin Leftwich, a vice president at Irvine, in an e-mail.
Mission Town Center Apartments would replace an “old-style storage center” located on the site, said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews. The site is part of an area zoned for high-density use and is along a transit corridor, located near bus lines and a future BART station along with Caltrain. Irvine has a long-term ground lease for the site, owned by James Viso, who over the years has acquired much property in the area, Matthews said.
Irvine Co.’s project could help spark more development in that neighborhood, which is part of a district the city is looking to revitalize.
“We’re fairly retail starved in this particular area,” Matthews said.
The university is considering developing a site it owns on Benton across the street from Irvine’s project, and the city next month plans to put out requests for proposals for a so-called “superblock” area. The superblock is what is left of Santa Clara’s historic downtown, which was demolished for redevelopment in the 1960s, but has never come back to its potential.
The city retained about 7 acres of land between Lafayette and Benton streets and Homestead Road and “for years has been looking at opportunities to invest in this superblock and bring a shared sense of community and retail back to downtown,” Matthews said.
Matthews said that among the Irvine, university and superblock projects, there could be 100,000 square feet of new retail added to the area within the next five years—or sooner. Santa Clara-based SiliconSage Builders also plans to build 44 condominium units above 14,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space nearby at 1313 Franklin St.
Further, Santa Clara University is working to form an art history district on Franklin Street. Plans include opening an art museum for school and public use and forming a pedestrian walkway that would connect the city to the university and provide opportunities to enliven the street with events, Matthews said.
“By adding mixed-use sites throughout this corridor, we hope to recreate something for the future,” he said.
The Irvine Co. has been quickly building its Santa Clara portfolio. The company last month acquired the 427,500-square-foot office campus Tech Park at Freedom Circle and revealed plans to add 2,000 residential units to its Santa Clara Square retail-and-office mixed-use development under way at Bowers Avenue and Highway 101.