SAN JOSE – A development alliance is planning a tower in downtown San Jose to replace the drudgery of working in an office with an innovative concept: working in a park.
Park Habitat is to be built alongside The Tech Interactive, creating a park within the proposed tower, as planned by global developer Westbank and local developer Gary Dillabough.
“The theme for Park Habitat is how to turn the Silicon Valley office park model upside down and how we can create a park in a downtown office,” said Andrew Jacobson, development director for the West Bank Sanbank Initiative.
The eye-catching skyscraper at 180 Park Ave. is one of five first projects that West Bank and Dillabough, head of Urban Community real estate company, are undertaking in downtown San Jose.
Park Habitat office tower at 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, showing adjacent buildings, concept. Hayes Davidson / West Bank
“Put simply, we’ve never seen anything like this proposed for downtown, and we’re taking it positive,” wrote Brian Corbett, a member of the San Jose Downtown Association’s design committee, in a letter to city planners.
Up and down US Highway 101, along the Central Expressway, and on stretches alongside and near Interstate 280, low and functional office buildings and technology parks dot the landscape of Silicon Valley. They host the stores of some of the most famous and dynamic companies in the world.
“Many of these large campuses are isolated and surrounded by huge parking lots,” said Jacobson. “These are office parks.”
By helping office workers work outdoors, Park Habitat could also create a new type of work environment suitable for a health-conscious world during the coronavirus era.
Common areas and walkways with gardens at Park Habitat, 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, concept. Kengo Kuma and coworkers / West Bank
“The idea is to bring the relationship with nature to an office building downtown,” said Jacobson. “This creates public space, but also a place that will be an inspiring work environment, especially from COVID. It will create a place where people want to go to work. “
Park Habitat would total 1.2 million square feet, replacing the aging Parkside Hall with offices, ground floor retail stores, public spaces, and an extension from The Tech.
“Given San Jose’s exceptional climate, indoor and outdoor work areas make a lot of sense,” said Mark Ritchie, president of Ritchie Commercial, a real estate company. “Of course, there are some long-term changes in the work space ahead, and this is a positive trend.”
Combined with office towers from veteran development company Jay Paul Co. in an adjacent location and a large block across the street, the projects would help create a vibrant street scene on Park Avenue between South Market Street and Almaden Boulevard.
Street view of Park Habitat, 180 Park Ave., downtown San Jose, concept. Kengo Kuma and coworkers / West Bank
In particular, Park Habitat’s new office tower would feature a series of gardens that would crown the roof and nestle in terraces at several points in the building.
“This project is innovative, thoughtful,
sustainable and introduces some new concepts into the architectural vernacular of the region, ”wrote Corbett in a letter from the San Jose Downtown Association to the city.
The new high-rise would contain a “green lung” of environmentally friendly and health-oriented gardens in an open area within the tower that, according to West Bank concepts and narratives, would rise from the ground floor to the roof.
“People will have immediate access to nature, the building will have a kind of fluid connection with nature and green spaces,” said Jacobson.
The developers are also promoting the garden elements in order to create tower microclimates, the characteristics of which would change in each of the four seasons.
“Park Habitat speaks of a healthy and environmentally friendly workplace,” said Bob Staedler, CEO of Silicon Valley Synergy, a land use consultancy.
In recent years, technology companies have tried to create new types of convenience to keep their employees and to attract new employees.
West Bank and Dillabough hope Park Habitat offers unique elements that appeal to technology companies and their employees.
“Workers have access to daylight, nature, fresh air and greenery,” Jacobson said. “You won’t feel like you’re in an office box.”
While some Downtown Association observers question some elements of Park Habitat, they also delve into the futuristic components of the design.
“We have to be brave, we have to take risks, we have to grow and embrace the future of downtown San Jose as a place for expressive and sustainable architectural design,” wrote Corbett, architect and managing director of the architecture and design firm Gensler in the letter about Park Habitat . “This project is a lot, but it’s certainly not boring.”
Park Habitat interior, roofline view, 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, concept. Kengo Kuma and coworkers / West Bank
Park Habitat, view across Park Avenue with The Tech on the left, 180 Park Ave., San Jose, Concept. Kengo Kuma and coworkers / West Bank