Exclusive first look: New look for downtown San Jose’s Museum Place tower proposal

Silicon Valley Business Journal

The developers behind Museum Place — downtown San Jose’s most ambitious mixed-use tower — have submitted their first formal plans to the city, showing a revised design and a larger residential and hotel component.

“We basically super-sized everything,” said Dennis Randall, managing director for Insight Realty, which is spearheading the project with China New Era, a Chinese development and investment firm. “It’s a very progressive, very urban plan.”

The new look simplifies some of the sweeping sculptural elements and facade flourishes that Insight showed in a concept design first revealed nearly a year ago. That design helped Insight win a contest to gain control of the property from the city, which is offering up the land in return for a new exhibit hall for the Tech Museum of Innovation.

But the basic elements are there, including layers of landscaped terraces, extensive balconies, and a look and feel that appears different from all angles.

“The changes are all about design and constructability,” Randall said. “You have a lot of Title 24 issues, code requirements. The design we have now takes in all of that, but we are absolutely trying to maintain everything we proposed.”

The new plans include just about every real estate asset class you can imagine. That’s not so uncommon in Asia or major gateway cities like San Francisco or New York, but it’s unlike anything ever attempted in the South Bay. Yet Randall says Insight’s partner, China New Era, has the project fully funded and can start construction as soon as the approvals are received.

The new plans include:

  • 213,820 square feet of office space
  • 334 condo units (326,000 square feet)
  • 143-room hotel (69,224 square feet)
  • 12,171 square feet of retail
  • 60,000 square feet of expansion space for The Tech on the ground floor and one level underground.
  • Three levels of below-grade parking for 1,000 cars (which will be parked valet style, with cars stacked above each other).
The formal planning submission is important because it shows progress is being made on a project that was first announced a year ago. Despite the flashy drawings and prior news coverage, the firm hadn’t actually submitted a formal planning package. That’s now done.The documents show that Insight is working with a team that includes Level 10 Construction on pre-construction; Kier & Wright on civil engineering; Langan Treadwell Rollo on geotechnical engineering; Magnusson Klemencic Associates on structural engineering; the Guzzardo Partnership on landscape architecture; and Watry Designs on the parking program. The architect is Steinberg.The plans come as the city and Insight work toward a final “disposition and development agreement,” spelling out the deal between the city and the developer, that should be presented publicly in the late fall, Randall said. The process isn’t quick: “A lot of the DDA is dependent on technical inputs we don’t have yet,” he said. “We have to get information back on the costs to build.” The good news? The DDA process is being run concurrently with the planning process, so approval of the DDA should coincide with approval of the project.In the meantime, Insight is working to get the project in front of potential office tenants, hotel operators and condo marketers. A Colliers International team ofGregg von ThadenDon ReimannMike Rosendin and Susan Gregory have been hired to market the office space.“They’ve been instrumental in helping us get the office floors right,” Randall said, noting that the project will include large floor plates ranging from 60,000 square feet to 40,000. “And we have outstanding hotel candidates, all four star, and we’ve gotten great feedback on the condo concepts,” Randall said.

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