10-acre Stevens Creek site could sprout urban node under redevelopment proposal

The new owners of a 10-acre commercial complex in West San Jose are laying the groundwork for a major urban node that would add hundreds of housing units and space for more than 1,500 jobs amid the car lots of Stevens Creek Boulevard.

FortBay LLC has submitted an application this week to develop 500 apartments and 244,000 square feet of office space on the site of Stevens Creek Executive Center at Stevens Creek and Lopina Way. The plans are conceptual and could change, but the preliminary site plan includes two, seven-story residential buildings, a six-story office building and a six-level parking garage.

Redevelopment isn’t imminent. Residential uses on the site aren’t currently allowed. That will change — in certain conditions — under the city’s pending urban-village plan for the Stevens Creek area, but it’s unclear when that plan could be approved.

In the meantime, FortBay is seeking what’s called “signature project” status, which could allow its vision to proceed earlier if city planners find that the proposal provides job growth and is of high-quality urban design. The company and its capital partner, Colony Capital, paid $53 million for the property.

Tom deRegt, a principal at FortBay, said the firm wanted to begin the process now, while a neighborhood task force is studying the urban-village plan, so that FortBay’s ideas could be considered during this process. It will also allow the developer to gather feedback from city staff and the community.

But FortBay is still signing office leases at the project, albeit short, one- to three-year terms. The complex includes more than 100 office tenants. Most of them occupy less than 3,000 square feet.

“We bought the property based on existing use,” he told me on Thursday. “And we are already working with our leasing team and existing tenants. We’re looking at some capital plans on common area improvements. Yet we’re intrigued with the opportunity to look at the potential opportunity down the road.”

This isn’t the only big project FortBay is working on in Silicon Valley. The development firm recently turned in plans to redevelop Mountain View’s Village Lake Apartments. FortBay bought the 208-unit community in late December of 2015. This week’s application would develop 700 apartments on the site, including 540 market-rate units and 160 affordable units.

FortBay’s Stevens Creek proposal is the latest major project envisioned for West San Jose. On the site of the former Garden City Casino, Prometheus Real Estate Group and Shorenstein are seeking signature-project designation for a mixed-use hub with 360,000 square feet of office 15,000 square feet of retail and 871 apartments.

FortBay is working with the architecture firm KTGY on the residential portion of the project, and WRNS Studio on the office. The current site plan places one apartment building and the office building on Stevens Creek, separated by a linear park. Behind them, along Albany Drive, would be the other apartment building and the parking garage. That parking garage would also include about 8,000 square feet of office suites.

This part of West San Jose is not currently a major office center, but the site in question is less than 10 minutes down Stevens Creek from Apple’s ever-expanding footprint in Cupertino.

DeRegt said it makes sense to include both office and housing together to balance the traffic demands.

“This is a first cut, but it meets some of the city’s goals as far as office square footage under the urban village designation,” he said. “And then it’s a combination of residential and office to help the traffic. Ideally you want to get housing close to the office so you don’t add to the traffic.”


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Nathan Donato-Weinstein covers commercial real estate and transportation for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.