Office mega-campus could transform downtown San Jose after court ruling

A proposed office campus is poised to become an iconic addition to downtown San Jose’s skyline after a judge decided a “brutalist” building can be demolished at the development site, property experts say.

The future landmark campus would total 3.64 million square feet of space once it is complete and feature three office towers, connecting sky bridges, ground-floor restaurants and shops, open spaces and paseos to connect the complex to the nearby streets.

“The CityView development is one of the biggest and most important projects that has ever been proposed in downtown San Jose,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “What Jay Paul has proposed is to modernize CityView, create more density, open it up to the rest of the downtown, and go much higher with the buildings.”

Potentially 14,000 people could work in the office spaces in the complex, which is bounded by Park Avenue, Almaden Boulevard, West San Fernando Street, and South Market Street.

Open areas in the CityView office, retail and restaurant project in downtown San Jose, bounded by Park Avenue, Almaden Boulevard, West San Fernando Street, and South Market Street, concept. //

“This is a key development site for the vibrancy of downtown San Jose,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy. “The increased density and the number of people working there means this project will be a linchpin to make BART and high-speed rail successful.”

The project’s size could have the same sort of impact in downtown San Jose as the vast Embarcadero Center towers complex in San Francisco, said Mark Ritchie, president of Ritchie Commercial, a commercial real estate company.

“It’s a huge project in terms of people and square footage,” Ritchie said. “It’s the center block, it would be the biggest thing yet for downtown San Jose.”

In a tentative ruling this week, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni denied a petition by the Preservation Action Council of San Jose to delay the CityView development and block the demolition of the “brutalist” building.

If the ruling becomes final, it would be possible for developer Jay Paul Co. to bulldoze the old bank building at 199 Park Ave., redevelop CityView Plaza and build the three office and retail towers as proposed.

199 Park Ave., an old bank building in downtown San Jose. //

The judge’s tentative decision also shows that if Jay Paul Co. had been forced to keep the bunker-like bank building, the overall project would have been dramatically altered. The judge determined that Jay Paul Co. would have been obliged to retain the adjacent office tower to the north at 150 S. Almaden Blvd.

“Only two of the three proposed office towers could be constructed, a loss of approximately 1.21 million square feet in new office development,” Judge Kulkarni wrote in his proposed decision. “This would result in 2.26 million square feet of new development on site.”

That would equate to a 38% reduction in the amount of office space in the complex.

“The city would lose the opportunity to provide high-density office space in this prime downtown location,” the judge wrote in his tentative decision.

The judge also determined that it wouldn’t be technically feasible to attempt to preserve and re-use the old bank building on site.

“It (the brutalist building) could potentially be used as an office or event space, but reuse may be limited due to the design of the structure, which is relatively small and has limited natural light within the building,” the judge wrote in the ruling.

Leaders of the opposing sides in the litigation have reacted to the judge’s tentative ruling.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” said Ben Leech, executive director of the Preservation Action Council. “Preserving and adaptively reusing this building in the long-term is a better option, for both this development and the city of San Jose as it evolves.”

The city’s mayor embraced the court ruling.

“The court got it right,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “In my unsophisticated view, the term ‘brutalist’ describes a category of buildings that not even the architect’s mother could love.”

Jay Paul Co.’s chief investment officer, Matt Lituchy, expressed optimism that the judge’s final ruling will confirm and preserve the current tentative ruling.

“It is an encouraging and positive development, but it is tentative,” Lituchy said.

No timeline has emerged for the demolition of any of the structures in the CityView complex, including the old Bank of California building that is at the heart of the Preservation Action Council’s legal quest.

The CityView project’s potential to start to add new towers to downtown San Jose, along with the proposed Park Habitat office tower from Westbank and Gary Dillabough, and the under-construction 200 Park office tower from Jay Paul Co. could all coalesce to bring game-changing alterations to the Park Avenue section of downtown San Jose.

“CityView and the others will allow us to reconsider Park Avenue as the new 100% core of downtown San Jose,” Knies said.

Jay Paul Co. also describes the CityView complex as a major change for downtown San Jose, according to a post on the development company’s website.

“CityView is more than just another tech office campus,” Jay Paul Co. said in the post. “It’s the next generation of space to work and play.”

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