San Jose approves CityView challenge and says goodbye to the previous courthouse

CityView Plaza in downtown San Jose will transform from a mixed-use campus from the 1970s into a modern, glass-lined office park with three towers and an area of ​​3.8 million square feet following the final vote on Tuesday.

Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to approve the project from San Francisco developer Jay Paul Co., who is already working on a 1,000,000-square-foot office building across the street at 200 Park Ave. The two projects will eventually be integrated, the company representatives said.

“This is the kind of development we hoped for in our city and hopefully this will continue to generate more development interest as we continue to try to grow out of the center of our city,” Councilor Raul Peralez said on Tuesday before the vote.

Tuesday’s meeting also marked the beginning of the end of the former Bank of California and Family Court building at 170 Park Ave., which occupies about half an acre of the 8.1-acre CityView Plaza property in the heart of downtown San Jose is located.

Conservationists have fought to save the building on the corner of Park Avenue and Almaden Boulevard, as the building is associated with the architect César Pelli and his distinctively brutalist architectural design. Nonetheless, the legislature voted not to call the thick concrete building a symbol of the city.

That decision came a relief to Jay Paul executives, who, according to Janette D’Elia, chief operating officer, had been considering various options to save the building with no luck. Instead, the group has offered to create a memorial exhibition for the virtual reality of the old square and to put a memorial plaque in the place where the building is today.

The two-story, nearly 30,000-square-foot building at 170 Park Ave. was once home to the Bank of California, then the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Now it stands empty but is expected to be demolished along with the rest of CityView Plaza. Photo courtesy PAC SJ

The Preservation Action Council in San Jose started a petition to save the building, calling it “the Sphinx” and collecting more than 150 signatures in support.

“A vote on landmark status is not a vote against City View Plaza, but a vote of encouragement to improve this project for the future,” said Ben Leech, the council’s executive director, on Tuesday. “This doesn’t have to be an either-or decision.”

But councilors and the public did little to help preserve the 1973 building on Tuesday, even from the man who developed CityView Plaza – then known as Park Center Plaza – 50 years ago.

The building “was designed years ago with another architect named Sid Brisker at a dining table in my house,” Lew Wolff told councilors. “In my opinion it’s not an example of any form of architecture, especially (brutalist) or whatever the term they assigned to it after discovering that Cesar isn’t the only architect.”

Wolff developed the block-length development during the last major phase of urban renewal in downtown San Jose and made the city center a well-known banking center. Now is the time to demolish the buildings and welcome them into a new era for the downtown core, he said.

With Tuesday’s approval, Jay Paul will begin construction on his massive new downtown development later this year. The project will take approximately six years, although construction will be allowed 24 hours a day.

Overall, Jay Paul expects to invest $ 5 billion in downtown San Jose by the time his projects are complete.

“We believe the future of the valley lies in downtown San Jose,” said D’Elia on Tuesday.

The new development will come with 3.6 million square feet of office space over 24,000 square feet of retail space. About 6,230 parking spaces would be underground, maximized by car lifts and valet parking, city documents show.

Although some San Jose planners said they would prefer some of these parking lots to go off the map, representatives from Jay Paul say the spaces are needed to attract renters. The councilors, some who praised the design on Tuesday, did not push the subject.

“This extraordinary investment in our city couldn’t come at a better time when we urgently need to get people to work,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I am sure that in a few months, when the existing projects are completed, there will be a lot of construction workers out of work and this will be a really great shot in the arm for our city.”

Contact Janice Bitters at [email protected] or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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