UPDATE: San Jose approves high-rise office towers
A rendering of the Almaden Office Project. Photo courtesy of San Jose, Boston Properties and Kohn Pedersen Fox.

    Woz Way is getting a makeover in the form of a pair of high-rise office towers—and the project is right at the city’s height limit.

    The Almaden Office Project, led by developer Boston Properties, will be built on a 3.57-acre parking lot on the corner of South Almaden Boulevard and Woz Way. The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the project.

    The building will have two connected, 16-story office towers at 283 feet—the maximum building height allowed by Federal Aviation Administration rules in San Jose.

    “Quite frankly, at the start, I was not super optimistic that we would be able to get here because of the real narrow footprint in this area,” said Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes the project. “When you look at locations like this, these are the ones that make it tough. It’s a challenge to get something that fits well. I want to give credit to Boston Properties and to our stakeholders and environmental advocates.”

    There will be more than 2 million square feet of space split across the two connected towers, including 1.42 million square feet of office space, 37,603 square feet of retail and amenity space on the ground floor and 1,279 parking spaces.

    Downtown San Jose has seen continuing development in an effort to revitalize the area, including approval of a future campus for Google, developments in its opportunity zone and continuing arts programs and installations. This includes offices, which will occupy the site of the former Camera 12 movie theater.

    That’s good news according to union workers who are eager to work on the project, including several members of Carpenters Local 405, Teamsters Local 853, IUPAT District 16 and IUOE Local 3, who spoke at the meeting in favor of the project.

    “After four years of college I didn’t find a passion in anything I was studying. But I did find it within the trades that the carpenters offered me,” said Carpenters Local 405 union member Camille Scheffer. “For me, this project near home means a load off my shoulders. I can easily take my kids to school, get to work and go home efficiently.”

    According to Boston Properties, the site will bring 1,919 full-time construction jobs, generate $4.3 million annually for the city’s general fund and bring in $6.5 million in property taxes a year for the San Jose Unified School District.

    Boston Properties first explored building at the Almaden and Woz Way site in 2018. But the project has run into opposition from environmental advocates such as the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club and the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society that are concerned the towers will be too close to the Guadalupe River, which they argue could potentially destroy trees and soil near the river.

    Developers have pledged to add 13,000 square feet of landscaping to prevent potential erosion of the soil around the river.

    “Our advocates believed for years that the city respected its natural resources and cared for its waterways,” said James Egers, director of the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club. “It’s recently become clear that the city is willing to sacrifice the important Guadalupe River and set a new benchmark for irresponsible development.”

    Councilmembers also asked about environmental impacts, including possible erosion because of the project’s underground parking garage. Representatives from Boston Properties told the council that the project’s underground and above-ground floors, though close to the river’s edge, will not be a cause for concern.

    “This project creates a buffer between the Guadalupe River and the building which is a benefit,” said Councilmember Pam Foley. “We need to densify our city to change the way people get to one place or another, and this project does that. One of the best environmental benefits we can plan for is placing people next to jobs, and this project accomplishes that.”

    While environmentalists have called for an altered project footprint, city officials say that isn’t possible, as both Boston Properties and the city have already pushed back the project as much as possible and included safety measures for birds. Bird disruption is a frequent worry for projects along the river, including the recently approved Breeze of Innovation project.

    “I know there’s a lot of concern from the environmental community. I can’t help but to state the obvious here: This is a paved parking lot. This is not a pastoral paradise,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “I think this developer has taken great pains to try to accommodate a lot of concerns that they’ve anticipated and that they’ve heard from the environmental community… Everything about this project is what we want to accomplish through Climate Smart.”

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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