Boston Properties received final approval from the San Jose City Council this week to advance its 2.05 million square foot mixed-use, two-tower mega project that it plans to bring to life at 447 Almaden Boulevard. A unanimous vote from the Council gives the developer the green light to develop the 16 story’ towers that will feature 37,603 gross square feet of ground-floor retail and amenity space, 1,416,717 gross square feet of commercial office space as well as three levels of parking.
While the vote did not see any dissension among the Council members, concerns about the project that were addressed in earlier meetings were discussed during this latest session. The City staff provided another deep dive into the project’s impact on the riparian policies and addressed the concerns as well as the impact this development will have on the Guadalupe River and surrounding natural settings that it may disrupt. However, the staff found the development is consistent with San Jose’s General Plan, the zoning code development standards, the City Council policies including the Riparian Policy and the 2004 Downtown Design Guidelines, and advised the Council to approve it.
The public comments in support of and objecting to the development echoed similar feedback from the Planning Commission meeting, which occurred at the end of August. A number of speakers from the union trades spoke favorably of the opportunity Boston Properties would allow them. They highlighted the fact that the construction process would enable local jobs and high quality of life for their members. San Jose Downtown Association also spoke in support of the development, as did the Children’s Discovery Museum, which would be its neighbor. The Museum spokesperson highlighted the project as a stunning backdrop to the museum, and he anticipates the development will activate the park and the river, which is a feature of the museum, too. It would help restore the river, provide new amenities like restaurants and retail stores, and deliver much-needed and safer parking on weekends and holidays, their busiest times.
However, some of the same organizations that objected previously also voiced their concerns. The Sierra Club is not in support of the proposed development. Neither is the California Native Plants Society. In addition, a number of private citizens spoke against the project, citing destruction of natural habitat and depletion of the river and the natural setting that exists on the site today. Their biggest concerns stem from the proximity of the buildings to the bank of the river and the proximity of the underground parking to the waterway.
Mayor Liccardo summarized what most the Council members expressed, “I think it’s gonna be a wonderful addition and, bluntly, a superior alternative to a paved parking lot, which is what it is today,” he said acknowledging the challenges with the setting, but confirming his belief that the development follows all City guidelines and policies surrounding the proximity to the river.
He also added that the development would deliver $17 million of impact fees, which will directly be used for affordable housing, in addition to a $6.5 million annual contribution to the San Jose school district and other benefits. And while he acknowledged the negative impact the project will have on the site, he underscored that this will not be the cause of that impact, just an incremental contributor to that impact.
In addition, the development team offered a glimpse of its efforts into being great stewards of the site. Boston Properties plans to add 12,500 square feet of landscaping across the development and include a filtering system for the runoff water that would actually mitigate the effects of possible flooding and further erosion of the river banks.
“We were hoping this project would rise many years ago, and the timing wasn’t right,” said Mayor Liccardo. While he hopes Boston Properties will kick off their project soon, he understands that the reality may be uncertain. “There are 30 buildings already approved for development in the downtown area,” he added, “and they are still waiting for the right time and financing.”
Most of his City Council colleagues agreed that the development would help revitalize this part of the downtown core and see the project as a catalyst of that transformation. With full support of the City, Boston Properties can now advance the project into reality.