Planning Commission Approves 606,526 SQFT Mixed-Use Project in San Jose

Santa Clara Valley Orchards, San Jose, San Jose Planning Commission, San Jose City Council, Westbank, Steinberg Hart, James Cheng Architects, The Orchard, Bo Town Restaurant, Park Habitat, Bank of Italy

By Kate Snyder

A proposal for a mixed-use project that is designed to honor the history of the Santa Clara Valley Orchards as well as add to the value and culture of downtown San Jose was approved by the San Jose Planning Commission during a meeting Wednesday. From there, the proposal will move on to the San Jose City Council, which is the deciding body.

The project, called The Orchard, is a 606,526 square foot mixed residential and commercial building that would include 7,430 gross square feet of ground floor commercial space and 540 housing units, according to project plans presented during the recent planning commission meeting. Additionally, the building would include 7,497 square feet of co-working space and 6,141 square feet of residential amenity space.

The developer is Westbank, a real estate development firm that, since its inception in 1992, has offices around the world and has more than 25 billion dollars of projects completed or under development, according to the firm’s website. Andrew Jacobson, project lead at Westbank, gave part of the presentation to the city’s planning commission, highlighting the goal of not just providing an energy-efficient residential and commercial tower but also of adding to San Jose in a beneficial way.

“This is one of a handful of projects we’ve been bringing forward and we’re really excited about downtown San Jose and the possibilities,” he said. “This is a great collaboration on the design side from Steinberg Hart, who are prominent local architects, and James Cheng who is a Vancouver, Canada-based architect that we’ve done a number of projects with over the previous decades.”

The project is located at 409 and 425 South 2nd Street. Currently on the site are the former Bo Town Restaurant, an accessory building, and two storage structures totaling 5,283 square feet, which would all need to be demolished prior to construction. Kara Hawkins, environmental project manager, told the planning commission that The Bo Town Restaurant was identified as an eligible city candidate landmark and its demolition would constitute a cumulative impact of cultural resources. Officials also noted, however, that the proposal includes a recreation of the restaurant into the new development.

Ernie Yamane, partner at Steinberg Hart, said his company has worked with Westbank multiple times and the developer has a long history of celebrating culture and heritage. He specifically noted that the current proposal would feature sustainable and natural design in an urban setting, that it would be designed to LEED Platinum standards and that it would pay homage to California mid-century modern design.

“This project represents the past and the future,” Yamane said. “It honors, I think, the history of our valley, and the agricultural heritage that we have.”

The proposed building would include 27 studio, 405 one-, 81 two- and 27 three-bedroom apartments. Amenities would include a new courtyard, the Westbank Bicycle Club, a rooftop terrace, an indoor/outdoor pool, and outdoor kitchen, party room, dog run, gym and spa.

Public comments were generally positive, though many commenters shared concerns on the type of housing that would be available and whether the project would include any affordable options or a sufficient number of units that meet ADA standards. Several commissioners also brought up affordable housing and asked how that is being addressed by the development. Jacobson could not give details as the process is still in the works, but he told commissioners that they are working with officials on housing.

Jacobson also pointed out that The Orchard is not Westbank’s only project in San Jose. According to the firm’s website, additional projects also include Park Habitat, which would create 1.3 million square feet of low-carbon workspace and retail space, and the redevelopment of the Bank of Italy.

“We are really excited about the downtown and the direction of downtown,” Jacobson said. “And we hope not only this project, but the many projects we have in our pipeline downtown, can one, add value culturally, add value economically and bring a sense of inspiration but also leadership on not only things like sustainability that we’ll be going for platinum on but also for things like parking where we’re very aggressive on our parking count. Our hope here is that we can create a great downtown where people are living, working, playing downtown, and that brings a downtown that people are walking to.”

Despite concerns over affordable housing and ADA standards, commissioners were generally positive about the project. Commissioner Jorge Garcia said he likes the proposal and pointed out that the site in its current use is not contributing any housing, affordable or market-rate.

“It fits all the criteria in terms of being mixed-use, commercial and residential,” he said. “It’s putting something where there’s a vacant building now and a couple of storage units and it’s adding 500 residential units where there are none today. So, whether they’re affordable or not, it’s going to impact the supply, which is a benefit to everybody.”

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News