By David Goll
San Jose city officials will consider in coming months whether the upward direction of development in the Bay Area’s largest city will extend even beyond downtown.
The Volar mixed-use tower is proposed to rise 25 stories, or 267 feet, at 350 S. Winchester Boulevard on the edge of the popular Santana Row retail, office and residential development. It’s planned to contain 47,850 square feet of commercial space — including retail, restaurant and office uses — and 330 market-rate rental housing units. It would also feature a restaurant on the 25th floor and rooftop terrace area that would include some public access, both offering 360-degree panoramic views of Silicon Valley. On the other end of the building, a four-level parking garage will be built underground. These numbers are preliminary and subject to owners and City review and approval.[contextly_sidebar id=”bATvmOcgnKFLK6G9txbNndmNeEOuWMRx”]The parcel where it would be situated is less than one acre in size. An existing small commercial building on the site will have to be demolished to make way for Volar.
There are currently no structures in that part of the city reaching anywhere near those heights. But the situation is changing, according to Salvatore Caruso, president of Santa Clara-based Salvatore Caruso Design Corp., which is designing the high-rise building. He said there are a pair of comparatively tall buildings being planned for adjacent Santana Row, up to 120 feet in height, and San Jose’s General Plan permits up to 25-story structures in the Urban Village district along Winchester and Stevens Creek boulevards.
Volar would be next door to the adjacent shopping meccas of the 1.7 million-square-foot, 70-store upscale Santana Row development and the 1.5 million-square-foot, 273-store Westfield Valley Fair shopping mall — anchored by Macy’s, Nordstrom and a new Bloomingdale’s store set to open next year – which are major commercial draws.
“There is some concern about traffic in the neighborhood, but we are having very normal and rational conversations with people in the area,” Caruso said. “The General Plan envisions creating an urban village in this part of the city, with a balance of residential and commercial uses. Development doesn’t always have to create more traffic and make things worse. If it’s done the right way, it can reduce traffic congestion.”
Lea C. Simvoulakis, a planner with San Jose’s Planning, Building and Code Enforcement department, confirmed some area residents have expressed concerns that the development — which would be built by Winchester Plaza on the Row LLC — will generate even more traffic in an already-congested district, along with attendant negative environmental impacts. Caruso counters the Volar development ranks highly on the walkability scale, given its proximity to employment, shopping, restaurants and other urban amenities.
“There is a Safeway store across the street (Stevens Creek Boulevard) and another new one is being discussed to be built across Winchester Boulevard at Santana West,” Caruso said. “All of the amenities of Santana Row and Valley Fair are within walking distance.”
Caruso said besides retailers and restaurants, commercial tenants in the structure would likely be professional offices and high-tech companies.
He said his firm will seek a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum designation for the project. The curved structure will feature both a cylindrical tower in one section and an overall V-shape to simulate the shape of wings.
“The idea with the building design is that it gives a sense of freedom, of winged flight, which we feel strongly represents Silicon Valley,” Caruso said. “This is a place that has not stood still for decades now. We wanted to choose an element from nature to portray the essence of Silicon Valley.”
The lion’s share of space in the building will be set aside for residences. Caruso said about 75 percent of the 330 rental apartments will be one-bedroom units. Sizes will range from 750 square feet to 1,150 square feet. These numbers are preliminary and would be finalized by the owners.
“We want to create a multi-generational project,” he said. “There will certainly be an element of millennial-generation working people, but we also want to attract retired people, people who may be downsizing from their larger homes in other parts of San Jose, interested in having a stylish urban lifestyle.”
Volar was the subject of a public hearing conducted by city officials for residents in the surrounding community May 19. Comments made by members of the public will be included in the project’s environmental impact report, according to Simvoulakis. To accommodate the new structure, the site will need to be rezoned from General Commercial to Planned Development designation. She said it’s likely the project won’t be considered by the San Jose Planning Commission or City Council until early 2017.