By Meghan Hall
The Bay Area’s housing crisis has hit many locals hard, but it can be particularly difficult for students, who are often in need of housing in high-density—and expensive—parts of the region. Many universities in the area are struggling to provide adequate housing for their student populations, which have exploded in recent years while development has lagged. Urban Catalyst, however, is looking to help combat the issue with a new residential development called “The Mark.” Located in downtown San Jose, the 216-unit residential development will serve San Jose State University (SJSU) students upon its completion.
“We were attracted to this property primarily because of its proximity to San Jose State University, and we also wanted to be West of campus near the SoFA Arts district due to its amenities,” explained Urban Catalyst’s Founder, Erik Hayden. “We were diligently looking for a site next to campus where we could accommodate SJSU’s students.”
According to Hayden, SJSU is the second largest university in the Bay Area behind U.C. Berkeley and has 35,000 students and 10,000 faculty. That number has grown as SJSU has transformed into a school not just for locals, but for students further afield, both nationally and internationally. Currently, the university is in need of around 6,000 beds to meet student housing demands.
“San Jose State desperately needs student housing,” continued Hayden. “Over the last 10 years, SJSU has become a destination school instead of a commuter school. During this time, the housing supply crisis has significantly increased in the Bay Area and SJSU has not been able to keep up with this demand.”
Urban Catalyst submitted its preliminary plans for the development in early February. The units will be able to accommodate more than 850 students. 4,000 square feet of retail, as well as onsite amenities and programming to cater to students. The property has a walk score of 86 and a bike score of 95, meaning that most daily tasks can be completed without the use of a vehicle. In order to meet the needs of students, Urban Catalyst will be implementing a “rent-by-the-bed” financing model to allow for more pricing flexibility.
“Our goal is to produce high quality housing targeting the student population at SJSU – a quality product that elevates the student experience, as SJSU transitions from being a commuter campus to a university where more students live near the campus (aka the destination school),” explained Hayden. “We are also looking to provide a high-quality living experience that is affordable for the student population here. Our rent-by-the bed model allows students to live in a safe environment close to campus while staying within budget. Furthermore, we want to not only return money for our investors and create a solid financial vehicle, but also meet the demand that the community needs and wants.”
Urban Catalyst will be taking advantage of the City of San Jose’s streamlined entitlement process to help move the project forward. The company, as a whole, focuses on downtown San Jose, its overall mission is to contribute to the revitalization of downtown specifically. As such, The Mark will not be the firm’s first foray into downtown. Urban Catalyst already has numerous projects in the works throughout the city, including The Icon. Located across from City Hall and about 100 yards from a future BART station, Urban Catalyst is seeking to build 348 multi-family apartment units, 120,000 square feet of office and 7,000 square feet of retail. Urban Catalyst is also working to develop Madera @ Downtown West, which will house 250 individuals in a mix of studios, two, three-, four- and five bedroom units.
“Our current perspective is that we all must do as much as we can to bring new housing stock online as quickly as possible,” stated Hayden. “We are in a decades-long housing supply imbalance, in which we have consistently produced more new jobs than apartments to rent; we need all types of housing from student-focused to workforce housing in order to relieve the pressure on the system and to help produce a higher quality of life for our workers and residents.”