By Nancy Amdur
The Irvine Co. this week announced plans to add 2,000 residential units and a central “Main Street” area to its mixed-use development under way at Bowers Avenue and Highway 101 in Santa Clara.
The company recently acquired more land for its Santa Clara Square project, taking its total to 100 acres and making room for an apartment community along with a mixed-use district, which will serve as the project’s town center and feature 40,000 square feet of retail space and a central plaza.
Irvine Co.’s $2 billion Santa Clara Square investment also will include a 1.8 million-square-foot office campus, 125,000 square feet of specialty retail space and about 30 acres of open space, parks and landscaping. Phase one of the office campus and the retail center already are under construction.
Newport Beach, Calif.-based Irvine Co. has a long history of building master-planned communities in Southern California, but this will be its first of this type in Silicon Valley.
“This is an important moment for us. We’ve been up here 20 years investing in Silicon Valley and building an asset base of apartments, retail and office,” said Steven Kellenberg, the real estate investment and development company’s senior vice president of community planning.
“The one thing we hadn’t figured out yet was how do we take our retail expertise, our apartment development expertise, our office development expertise and combine it with our community master-plan knowledge that we’ve built and gained over the last 50 years down in Southern California.”
The development site was assembled from nine different parcels, with the latest parcel additions now holding older one- and two-story office/R&D buildings.
Irvine Co. expects Santa Clara Square will address needs in the valley for more walkable communities and housing next to jobs, while also offering an engaging place where people can gather, Kellenberg said.
“There’s tremendous demand for living in an interesting place that is multiuse, that meets all your needs,” he said.
Pedestrian walkways and promenades were incorporated throughout to seamlessly link the property together, Kellenberg said.
Smart growth and sustainability also are key themes in the property.
“Sustainability is a byproduct of smart planning,” said Hanns Lee, Irvine Co.’s Northern California regional senior vice president of office properties. “The greatest emphasis on sustainability is the ability to keep people out of their cars, and this is what this community is really going to be able to accomplish.”
The offices will target LEED Gold and the retail space LEED Silver certification, said Carlene Matchniff, the company’s vice president of entitlement and public affairs in Northern California.
Residences will be luxury apartments in a resort-style setting with buildings featuring four different architectural styles. The community will be located along the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail and feature about seven acres of open space and recreational areas, including a public park and trail lined with redwood trees (wood from any removed redwood trees will be used within the development), along with a tot lot, picnic and barbecue areas and five pools.
A two-block “Main Street” will provide an urban feel with four- to six-story buildings featuring apartments or office space above ground-floor retail. Restaurants and outdoor seating are planned around a central plaza, which also provides space for events.
Santa Clara Square is near Highway 101, adjacent to the San Tomas trail, and on bus lines, which include routes to Caltrain.
Company executives met with Santa Clara’s City Council at a study session Tuesday evening to discuss its plans and submitted a project application for the housing and “Main Street” sections to the city on Wednesday. An environmental impact report will be prepared, and City Council likely will consider the project next spring.
Santa Clara’s General Plan outlines this type of project coming within 10 years, but Irvine Co.’s proposal indicates that “the future is now,” said Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews.
“This is moving us forward more quickly because the market is ready,” Matthews said.
Technology employees in the Valley likely will be drawn to the walkable “urban village” Irvine Co. is planning, but the project offers features for a variety of users, he added.
“The wonderful thing about the way this is planned is that it directly connects and integrates and invites the greater Santa Clara in, so it’s a part of Santa Clara and not apart from it,” Matthews said.
Dominic Caserta, a Santa Clara City Council member, said the project fits into his vision of creating “transit villages where people can get together with their families and instead of [being] in their car, [are] in walkable and bikeable types of environments.”
“I think this project by Irvine is a step in that right direction,” Caserta added.
Santa Clara Square’s office tenants will include global networking company Ericsson, which leased 410,000 square feet and plans to bring 2,000 employees there in phases, starting late this year. Santa Clara’s first Whole Foods Market will anchor the project’s retail portion with a 50,000-square-foot store to open in 2016.
Irvine Co. expects construction could begin on the apartment and “Main Street” components next year, with the first apartments available in 2018.
“We think there’s a great future here for us,” Kellenberg said. “We’re not a build-and-sell company, we’re a build and hold, which affects what we do and how we think about our projects. We think about how they’re going to be sustainable in the long term.”
The company debuted its 911,000-square-foot Santa Clara Gateway office campus last year at 5451 Great America Parkway. The property is 70 percent leased with tenants including Dell, Square and Arista Networks. This month, Irvine Co. paid $136.8 million to acquire the 427,500-square-foot office/R&D campus Tech Park at Freedom Circle, located about 1.5 miles from Santa Clara Gateway at Freedom Circle and Mission College Boulevard.
Also within its Silicon Valley portfolio are more than 7,000 apartments; 4 million square feet of office space; and the Cherry Orchard Shopping Center in Sunnyvale. Irvine Co. projects in the building or planning stages include the 1,308-unit River View Apartment Homes in North San Jose and an 825-unit apartment community near the Lawrence Caltrain station in Santa Clara.