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Court ruling clears way for huge downtown San Jose project to proceed


Court ruling clears way for huge downtown San Jose project to proceed

By GEORGE AVALOS | Bay Area News Group | PUBLISHED: September 9, 2021 at 4:21 p.m. | UPDATED: September 12, 2021 at 3:26 p.m.

SAN JOSE — A developer can bulldoze a bank building as part of a demolition of a downtown San Jose block and replace the outmoded structures with a dramatic new office and commercial campus, a Santa Clara County judge has ruled.

At the heart of the legal action, filed a year ago in September 2020, is a proposed development that would bulldoze the decades-old CityView Plaza in downtown San Jose and replace it with a modern tech campus that could bring 14,000 or more jobs to the city’s urban core.

The Preservation Action Council of San Jose raised concerns because the project’s plans call for the demolition of an old building and filed a legal action to effectively block the development.

The suit claims the building is an important example of a utilitarian style of architecture called brutalism. The preservation group filed a petition with the Santa Clara County Superior Court seeking to block the development until the city could conduct a further environmental review.

“The court tentatively denies the petition,” Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni wrote in his decision.

San Jose’s mayor quickly applauded the ruling.

“The court got this right,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

The tentative decision, however, dismayed the Preservation Action Council of San Jose.

“We are disappointed in the ruling,” said Ben Leech, executive director of the Preservation Action Council. “We still stand by the merits of our arguments. Preserving and adaptively reusing this building in the long-term is a better option, for both this development and the city of San Jose as it evolves.”

The preservation group believed it would be possible to develop the project by constructing the new campus around the old bank building.

Jay Paul Co., the developer of the CityView project, envisions the development as an iconic addition to downtown San Jose’s modest skyline.

A big tech company is thought to be a candidate to lease big chunks of CityView Plaza, or the adjacent 200 Park office tower, which Jay Paul Co. is constructing across the street on the south side of Park Avenue.

Once complete, CityView Plaza is expected to total 3.6 million square feet and feature a trio of 19-story office towers, along with 24,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, according to city documents.

“We remain optimistic that the final ruling will support the tentative ruling,” said Matt Lituchy, chief investment officer with Jay Paul Co. “It is an encouraging and positive development, but it is tentative.”

The CityView development site is bounded by Park Avenue, Almaden Boulevard, West San Fernando Street, and South Market Street.

Since the ruling is tentative, the court invited the parties in the matter to submit briefs outlining their views of the judge’s decision.

Still, the ruling clears a pathway for the demolition of the brutalist building.

“Substantial evidence supports the city’s finding that keeping the building is infeasible, in light of technical and economic considerations, project objectives, and the city’s general plan,” Judge Kulkarni wrote in the tentative decision. “Therefore, no delay is warranted” in the demolition of the building.

The building at 199 Park Ave., constructed in 1973, is an architectural example of brutalism, a minimalist style that emerged in Great Britain during the 1950s when that nation sought to quickly and inexpensively reconstruct neighborhoods that were shattered during World War II.

“Every period of architecture has gone through a phase where it is seen as ugly and obsolete,” Leech said. “But a later generation often regrets the decision of the prior generation to treat these buildings as ugly and disposable.”

The mayor opined that it’s an overstatement to suggest the brutalist building represents a style of architecture that could be widely embraced in the future.

“In my unsophisticated view, the term ‘brutalist’ describes a category of buildings that not even the architect’s mother could love,” Mayor Liccardo said.

Full article by George Avalos: https://www.mercurynews.com/2021/09/09/court-downtown-san-jose-project-brutalist-bulldoze-tech-real-estate/