By Naib Mian
During a study session on July 14, the Santa Clara City Council indicated its preference in the conceptual designs presented for proposed developments in the area surrounding the Lawrence Caltrain Station, which includes properties in both Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.
The 65 acres included in the Lawrence Station Area Plan stretches from Lawrence Expressway to Calabazas Creek and is bordered by Central Expressway on the north and Kifer Road on the south. The area includes properties within a half-mile radius of the station.
Although the location today is an industrial setting, developers SummerHill Homes, Westlake Urban, LLC, True Life Cos. and The Sobrato Organization plan to transform the area into a mixed-use, transit-oriented village with retail and housing.
The project is part of an effort to address the area’s lack of retail and need for more homes. Over the next decade, development will include more than 3,000 housing units—both rental and for sale—about 85,000 square feet of retail, multimodal transit connections and community-oriented open space.
San Ramon-based SummerHill presented two plans to the council. The first, called The Link, received the most support from council members. Featuring a central enclosed green space running east to west and surrounded by new construction, it would feature clusters of retail on both ends of the development.
The second option, which the developer called Central Park, would focus all of the retail space centrally around a north-south green space opening up to Kifer Road.
Council members preferred the sense of community The Link offered and felt that the Central Park plan would look unfinished given that the Sobrato portion, east of the main green space, would remain industrial for the time being. The Cupertino-based developer is not proposing changes in the foreseeable future in that area, which could impact the finished look and feel of the rest of the development.
“I’m personally more interested in home ownership, rather than high densities,” Councilmember Lisa Gillmor said. Council members also said the first plan would bring retail to the area immediately, activating the location, rather than anticipating a future development by the Sobrato Organization.
Palo Alto-based retail developer and owner John McNellis of McNellis Partners sided with SummerHill’s perspective for the first option as a third-party not directly involved in the project.
“We were able to design a comprehensive community and a comprehensive neighborhood,” said SummerHill President and CEO Robert Freed.
As the development moves forward in planning, City Manager Julio Fuentes also stressed the importance of relocating the current businesses within Santa Clara in order to maintain revenue for the city.
In closing, Mayor Jamie Matthews, said the development’s impact on schools, water and traffic will continue to be key areas of focus as the planning process commences, and he asked all the developers to keep those issues in mind as plans move forward.