By Meghan Hall
Silicon Valley has long been viewed as a completely separate business hub than San Francisco and the Peninsula, cultivating its own unique set of technology tenants throughout the course of the last market cycle. However, as the tech boom has taken off, more companies are searching for space in San Francisco, and San Francisco-based companies are moving to Silicon Valley. The result in Silicon Valley has been a shift towards “urban” corporate campuses that are like small cities in and of themselves, complete with not just office space, but retail and restaurants as well. The shift is one that San Francisco-based BCV Architecture + Interiors is paying keen attention to in its designs for a 24,000 square foot retail center at Washington Holding’s Mission Park in Santa Clara.
“For us, what was interesting was how Washington Holdings was transforming this set of buildings that had been originally designed for manufacturing into this set of tech office buildings,” explained Hans Baldauf, co-founding principal of BCV Architecture + Interiors. “We were trying to dig into this evolution of Silicon Valley, and one of the things we love is this relationship of Silicon Valley to San Francisco, with lots of companies moving.”
With 16 research and development buildings spread across the 46-acre campus, Mission Park includes more than 600,000 square feet of rentable office space. Located off of Mission College Blvd. and the Montague Expressway, the campus is near major employers such as Intel and is home to a variety of growing start-ups, according to BCV Architecture + Interiors Associate Jennifer Smith. Since Washington Holdings purchased the property in 2013, the entire campus has undergone renovations, and in addition to retail, Washington Holdings also plans to add a five-story, 175-key Element Westin Hotel to the site.
“There was an office building on the site previously and in Silicon Valley that is pretty valuable real estate, but [Washington Holdings] actually made the conscious decision to add retail and restaurant space because it is a bit of a food desert and they really wanted to provide this amenity for their office tenants,” explained Smith. “The cool part about the development is it is a campus for smaller startups, and these amenities help them acquire top talent when they are competing with the Googles and Apples of the world.”
The project’s five retail buildings will range in size from 1,300 to 7,200 square feet, and the space will also include a mix of gathering and open outdoor space. The five “pavilions” as Baldauf and Smith called them, will be modern shells for future tenants, composed of warm wood frames, large glass windows and white aggregate polished concrete block. As opposed to many retail spaces, ceiling heights were increased to 17 feet to allow for additional breathing room and flexibility. The goal, according to Smith and Baldauf, was to let the architecture and structure of the buildings shine through in the finished design.
“We have the structure very much expressed as an architectural finish,” said Smith. “The devil is in the details and that couldn’t be more true of this project.”
“We really wanted to celebrate the craft of the pavilions,” added Baldauf, who stated that the pavilions are almost loft-like in character and are designed to integrate seamlessly with the numerous walking paths and outdoor spaces surrounding the retail center. “What we’ve tried to do is to create the most beautiful frame for the most beautiful store or restaurant that we can come up with so that in the end, the tenants are the star of the show. We’re giving them a frame that creates a sense of place.”
The flexibility built into the shells will accommodate a wide range of retail and food-centric tenants, said Baldauf, an important approach given the changing nature of both corporate office campuses and retail.
“Retail is really a social experience in our mind,” said Baldauf. “People don’t just shop to buy things; they shop to engage with one another.
Delivery for retail center is expected in late spring or June of this year, although Baldauf and Smith were unable to disclose the campus’ newest tenants. No matter who moves in, however, Baldauf and Smith say the buildings are designed to stand the test of time.
“A lot of office campuses right now and retail right now is about creating these sort of public amenity spaces that breathe a lot of diversity into a place,” said Smith. “That is a really big touchstone in the retail and office world right now.”