470 Market Tower in San Jose Revealed / by Elaine Chan

Silicon Valley Business Journal

by Nathan Donato-Weinstein

A new apartment tower proposed for San Jose’s SoFA district is the latest entrant in a parade of high-rise housing projects sprouting up downtown. And this one comes with a big helping of zigs and zags.

UrbanCo — a joint venture of the Core Companies and Republic Urban Properties — has filed preliminary plans for a 24-story, 270-unit tower at South Market and East William streets across from the San Jose Stage Company. The site is a key gateway to downtown and right in the thick of the funky South First Area. It's something developers and architects took to heart during the design process, they told me this week.

“We want to make this SoFA-centric, to look SoFA-ish — whatever that means,” said Chris Neale, vice president with Core. “With some feedback, we consciously went outside the box to find an architect who would bring a little different look.”

That architecture firm turned out to be San Francisco-based Kwan Henmi, whose playful, colorful and undulating design for the Vida condo development in San Francisco's Mission District has become something of an icon there.

For the San Jose project, dubbed Gateway Tower, designers faced a special challenge: The roughly half-acre, trapezoidal footprint is bounded by South First and Market streets, two major roads with very different personalities. It’s also a neighborhood whose up-and-coming edginess means off-the-shelf, anonymous tower design simply wouldn’t work.

That architecture firm turned out to be San Francisco-based Kwan Henmi, whose playful, colorful and undulating design for the Vida condo development in San Francisco's Mission District has become something of an icon there.

For the San Jose project, dubbed Gateway Tower, designers faced a special challenge: The roughly half-acre, trapezoidal footprint is bounded by South First and Market streets, two major roads with very different personalities. It’s also a neighborhood whose up-and-coming edginess means off-the-shelf, anonymous tower design simply wouldn’t work.

Walter Armer, Core’s director of development, summed it up this way: “How do we put a 24-story building in an area that’s pretty unique and pedestrian in nature? How do went have it not overburden the area and make it interesting?”

A possible answer is visible in a preliminary design that seems to shape-shift depending on the angle of view, with pop-outs, notches, and sawtooth floor plates adding visual interest and breaking up the massing. Viewed head-on from William Street, the tower’s nose almost appears as two buildings snuggled up to each other, the bulkier one popping in and out every three stories, creating a rhythm of building sections. The whole thing is a mass of what architects like to call “articulations.”

“A lot of what we experience in urban architecture is about viewing buildings from oblique angles,” said Dan Moberly, a senior designer at Kwan Henmi, in an interview. “In an urban setting, I often see buildings at a diagonal. And as I pass by them and move through that urban space, it’s exciting to have buildings that change their character.”

While the Market Street side could be seen as a sleek take on today’s modern glass towers, the South First Street side is punctuated by a jagged-edge facade that seem to give each unit a corner view.

“We really focused on the special nature of this site," said Moberly, who is project manager for Gateway Tower. "The character of Market Street is very different from First Street. So the architecture we developed reflects the different scales and characters."

About 4,000 to 6,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial is contemplated in the current plans, with the largest amount slated for the corner of William and First streets. A parking structure would be integrated into the back of the site, with parking also going one level underground.

But the exact numbers and configuration could change. The project is just at the beginning stages, with the developers slated to meet with community groups and the city architecture review board in the coming weeks to get feedback. “A lot of what we’re doing now is engaging the stakeholders,” Neale said. Still, he hopes to move quickly and start site work within a year.

This is something of a return to the project for Core. The firm has owned the land for decades — in fact, it includes the company's headquarters — and had previously started working on a tower on the site in 2008. The economic collapse put those notions on ice, but in recent years the tower trend has taken off again downtown.

The market has been heartened by early success at Essex Property Trust’s One South Market, which has leased 96 of 311 units as of this week, a month after the first move-ins. Tower projects are at various stages of development from Simeon, Barry Swenson Builder, KT Urban and a little-known Chinese backed group.

“When my dad (Core President David Neale) bought the land, he’d always envisioned trying to do a high rise,” Chris Neale said. “Thirty years ago, he wanted to do a high rise. It’s always been in his heart. We tried in last cycle, but it wasn’t the right time. But One South Market seems to be working successfully. And as a company, we’ve always been bullish on Downtown San Jose.”

Core’s partnership with Republic represents the third joint venture for the two developers, including the 166-unit Marquis in San Jose’s Japantown and 230-unit Linq near the under-construction Berryessa BART station.

A capital partner for Gateway Tower has not been lined up, but Neale said early conversations with potential financing partners have been positive.

He singled out the Pierce, Sares Regis Group of Northern California’s mid-rise project at South Market and West Reed streets, as helping prove this particular submarket. That development is currently under construction and is being undertaking in partnership with Pritzker Realty Group.

“Sares Regis breaking ground with really an institutional quality project helped us,” he said.

This is not the only project Core is undertaking in the area. It is pursuing redevelopment of the Enterprise Rent-A-Car lot that it owns at 598 S. First St. into a 105-unit mid-rise project.

"The way we’re trying to differentiate ourselves is we’re fans of SoFA," Neale said.

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2015/06/19/meet-san-joses-newest-tower-proposal-in-so.html