SAN JOSE — A curved office and housing tower planned for downtown San Jose by a global and local development alliance is poised to become a dramatic and unique addition to the city’s modest and boxy skyline.
Downtown San Jose has plenty of towers, but this highrise would sprout with literal twists: curved ends and a soaring archway that could create what developers Westbank and Gary Dillabough call an “urban room” to bolster lively activities in the area.
The Energy Hub is the name for the proposed project, a mixed-use tower with several levels of offices stacked atop several levels of residences that would replace a surface parking lot at 35 S. Second St. in San Jose.
The 21-story tower would include a mix of homes, offices, retail, restaurants — and an eye-catching atrium-like “urban room” that could be accessed from the street and the building in a fashion that would benefit the tower’s office workers and residents, as well as the public at large.
The new tower would be connected via Fountain Alley to another memorable highrise in downtown San Jose, the historic Bank of Italy tower, which itself is slated for a bottom-to-top, inside and outside wide-ranging renovation and revamp under a separate proposal by Westbank and Dillabough.
“What we are proposing is a way to tie together The Energy Hub with the Bank of Italy and to activate Fountain Alley and to create other alleys that would also become active,” said Andrew Jacobson, head of development for Westbank’s San Jose initiative.
That connection would occur along Fountain Alley, which is envisioned as a path dotted with restaurants, nightspots, and shops.
“Currently a parking lot, this site allows for a dense building between two vibrant streets,” Westbank stated in a vision book about its efforts in downtown San Jose that the developer has circulated among real estate brokers.
The Energy Hub tower site is next to and near a series of alleyways and lanes: Fountain Alley, Tea Alley, Second and Third Alley, and San Fernando Alley, Westbank’s vision book noted.
A mixed-use building that contains ground floor retail along with upper floors of residential and offices would typically keep the offices in the lower sections of the building, while the housing would be on the upper floors, often with penthouses at the top.
Canada-based Westbank envisions a different approach with The Energy Hub.
“We are trying to take that and flip that upside down,” Jacobson said. “What would be the podium on the ground floor is opened up with arch and the urban room and that ground-floor space is provided to the public. We will have retail wrapping around both legs of the tower.”
Similarly, Westbank intends to eschew the conventional stacking of offices and residences in a mixed-use tower.
“You will have the residential along both legs of the tower next to the arch and then above the homes you will have the offices,” Jacobson said.
Architectural experts with the San Jose Downtown Association quickly embraced the unconventional approach.
“The placement within the structure of the retail, commercial, and residential space is different and exciting,” said Brian Corbett, a member of the design committee of the San Jose Downtown Association.
Above the street-level floor, the development would include:
— 10 residential floors with 194 one- and two-bedroom units.
— 10 office floors totaling 314,000 square feet.
–A rooftop area with gardens, knolls, lounges, a sundeck, dining areas, quiet zones, and a running track.
“The roof becomes a forest with amenities for the tenants of the building,” Westbank stated in the vision book.
Gardens, knolls, lounges, a sundeck, dining areas, quiet zones, and a running track could be among the amenities on the roof of The Energy Hub, city planning documents show.
“The investment in this area will create more foot traffic and make retail and restaurants more viable,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy.
Westbank is pushing ahead with five projects at six downtown San Jose sites, including The Energy Hub. Westbank and Dillabough hope that the five projects will transform every part of downtown San Jose and at the same time reinvent how cities and regions are developed.
Corbett of the Downtown Association particularly applauded the notion of the interior archway and public spaces.
“The five-story Urban Room, if it is built as rendered and programmed successfully, would enliven public space in the historic district and provide new energy to Fountain Alley,” Corbett said.
With its unique look, The Energy Hub would be a key catalyst for the transformation of downtown San Jose, according to Westbank.
“Energy Hub will have offices in the sky, with the human scale retail and paseos on the ground floor, and the residential floors will connect the two,” Jacobson said.