What’s next for the former Fry’s HQ in San Jose?
This rendering shows what seven office buildings and two parking garages would look like when complete at 550 E. Brokaw Rd. in San Jose. Image courtesy city of San Jose.

    A plan to build a massive office campus in North San Jose over the next decade is moving forward after winning approval from the San Jose City Council Tuesday evening.

    Campbell-based Bay West Development plans to build nearly two million square feet of office space across seven buildings on the site of the shuttered Fry’s Electronics headquarters and superstore at 550 E. Brokaw Road.

    Despite the unanimous approval, some councilmembers worried about the removal of large trees and whether the developer would pay homage to Fry’s in its project. The developer will plant smaller trees to replace them. The project could add more than 6,000 jobs when complete.

    Bay West Partner Bryon Wolf told the council his group doesn’t have a tenant lined up because the project is more than a year away from breaking ground. He said it is being planned with “world class” businesses in mind.

    Councilmember Sergio Jimenez asked the developer whether there will be enough demand to fill up the buildings as they come online.

    Wolf said the project is trying to match market trends showing interest in high-quality, Class-A office spaces like these. He also thinks the size of the project will be helpful in attracting lessees.

    “There are not many properties in all of Silicon Valley that can provide this amount of scale to provide a more campus type feel, than individual buildings,” Wolf said.

    With Tuesday’s approval, the developer will now begin a yearlong construction planning process. Construction will happen in four phases with each one taking two years to complete.

    The 19.7-acre parcel is located just west of Interstate 880, near the corner of Brokaw Road and Junction Avenue and about two miles east from San Jose International Airport.

    The plans call for demolition of the 213,626-square-foot building that formerly housed the massive Fry’s store and corporate headquarters — with entrances designed to look similar to a Mayan temple.

    Preservationists hope the developers pay homage to the iconic Fry’s stores with unique facades in the project.

    “This is a store where you could buy everything from Doritos to diodes and transistors and microcontrollers,” said Mike Sodergren, a member of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose. “How do you put something together that will inspire the people that are going to occupy this building to do the kind of things that the people who went and shopped there did in their spare time in their garages?”

    Councilmember David Cohen, whose District 4 borders the site, also asked how the developer plans to honor the chain. He was a frequent Fry’s shopper himself.

    Wolf said any interior work to honor the chain would come later in the planning stages, but didn’t elaborate.

    This rendering shows what some of the office buildings and a parking garage in a proposed Bay West Development project would look like when complete at 550 E. Brokaw Rd. in San Jose. Image courtesy city of San Jose.

    Fry’s announced the closure of all its stores about two years ago, after nearly four decades of selling electronics ranging from wires and components to computers, digital cameras and appliances.

    The site is represented by District 3 Councilmember Omar Torres, who is hopeful about the potential for thousands of jobs in the area.

    “As we continue to recover from COVID-19, it is essential to expand our economic base, and Bay West Development is doing just that,” Torres told San José Spotlight. “I look forward to the day when this site will have seven office buildings full of employees.”

    All seven proposed office buildings would be eight stories rising 120 feet high. In all, they’ll offer 1.92 million square feet of office space, while the two parking garages and surface parking will provide spaces for 5,415 cars, according to city reports.

    Pierluigi Oliverio, chair of the city’s planning commission and a former councilmember, said he’s glad to see the Fry’s site being repurposed for a commercial project.

    “Fry’s in its heyday produced a lot of significant sales tax, but since it’s been dormant, the value has been zero,” Oliverio told San José Spotlight.

    This rendering shows what a proposed seven-office building project at 550 E. Brokaw Rd. in San Jose, proposed Bay West Development, could look like from one of its pedestrian paseos. Image courtesy city of San Jose.

    The project is estimated to generate at least 12.3 miles of vehicle travel per trip for each future employee, despite measures to reduce driving such as improvements to bike lanes and infrastructure, and possible future vanpool services.

    That amount of vehicle travel per employee slightly exceeds the city’s maximum thresholds for development of 12.21 miles. The council granted the developer a special exception, stating that the project benefits outweigh the harms of the extra vehicle travel.

    City documents say the project could add about 6,400 jobs in North San Jose and help the city meet its goal of becoming a jobs and innovation center.

    Oliverio said he hopes the project will get financing to move forward quickly.

    “This is a significant, notable project that if it comes to fruition will bring great economic development for the city,” Oliverio said. “But I think we’re all in this wait and see mode with office space based on the pandemic. Will there be a full return, is it a partial return?”

    The project will also kick in about $3.3 million for improvements to the Highway 101 interchange at Oakland Road and to help construct a new interchange at Mabury Road, another reason Torres said the project will benefit the area.

    The council’s approval also subdivides the property from one parcel into four, allowing the developer to sell portions of the project as they are completed.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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