Insight Realty and City of San Jose Seek to Transform Downtown Core with Iconic Museum Place Project

The Registry

A 2.35-acre site at 180 Park Avenue in San Jose is situated right next to the Tech Museum of Innovation and has a proposal for a 1.16 million square foot mixed-used high-rise project. Last year, the City issued a Request for Proposals for a preferred developer as the project is a public-private venture. Insight Realty Company was chosen and brought on board Steinberg Architects and Level 10 Construction. China New Era Group Corporation is a financing partner for the initiative and Colliers International will take charge of property leasing.

“The City owns the land currently and the plan is to sell it to Insight,” explained Lea Simvoulakis, Planning project manager. “Part of the deal will be that a museum expansion be incorporated into the project. The General Plan has this site slated for a high density development, and with this proposal, there are a lot of goodies rolled into one.”
Parkside Hall, a 30,000 square foot conference and event facility currently exists on the site and will be demolished to make way for a 24-story building reaching 270 feet. Two floors will be connected to the Tech Museum to expand the Museum’s usable space by 60,000 square feet. The rest of the building will be devoted to 306 condos, 187 hotel rooms, 209,779 square feet of Class A office and 14,116 square feet of retail. Three levels of below-grade valet parking will provide 1,000 stalls for all users in the development and may potentially be operated with a mechanical lift system.

On December 1, an environmental scooping meeting was held with minimal attendance by community members and no significant feedback given. Because the high-rise is expected to cast a shadow on nearby Plaza de Cesar Chavez, a Subsequent EIR is being done by the City. Insight Realty and the City are currently in the process of finalizing the site development permit and are negotiating the final value for sale of the site. Dennis Randall, managing director at Insight Realty expects the whole process to be completed by Q1 2017. The disposition and development agreement will be decided upon by City Council while the site development agreement will go before a Planning Director’s hearing. Both meetings will likely occur in March.

“The feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Randall. “We’ve done a lot of outreach and been sensitive to architectural comments in order to make the project better. Building in San Jose is unique because of restrictive height limits and the very high water table, which causes significant engineering issues. For this project what we’ve done is maxed-out air space, earth space and efficiency, and chopped it up into feasible niches — hotels, condos, creative Class A office, Tech Museum space, retail and parking. It’s a model that we can replicate going forward in Downtown San Jose.”

Randall said that an announcement will be issued by the end of the year regarding the operator for the building’s four-star hotel. The hotel’s amenities such as a restaurant, bar and pool are geared to be accessible by all building users as well as the general public. The Class A office will be marked by large flexible floor plates and have access to a terraced outdoor space that has the double purpose of scaling back the building’s overall massing.

“For the design and development team this project fills a need for active pedestrian space in the area,” said Raquel Bito, senior design manager, Steinberg Architects. “We’ve focused on pedestrian access for Park Avenue and designed a paseo, which augments the retail component for the Tech Museum. There’s also a restaurant on the lower level operated by the hotel but is also a destination for the public. It will draw light rail commuters from West San Carlos Street and serve as a place where people can linger in the outdoor seating. We think this is a really special project in terms of its combination of users and the potential of what it can bring to this part of Park Avenue that currently has no retail.”