A showcase office tower featuring rooftop gardens could soon rise in the heart of downtown San Jose, dramatically reshaping the skyline of the Bay Area’s largest city.
The San Jose City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the Sobrato Organization’s proposal to build an 18-story office building with cascading glass facades on the corner of Market and West San Carlos, across the street from Cesar Chavez Park.
The building — dubbed Market Street Towers — will bring approximately 482,000 square feet of office space, 12,771 square feet of ground-level retail space and up to six floors of parking to the 1.49-acre site that is currently occupied by a surface parking lot.
“After many years of owning this site, we are excited to be here and look forward to bringing this unique and high-quality asset to the downtown core,” said Rob Tersini, vice president of real estate development for the Sobrato Organization.
All the Sobrato Organization needs now is to find a tenant because it doesn’t intend to construct the building on spec.
“We’re optimistic coming out of COVID, but that’s still the case,” Tersini said in an interview Tuesday.
The building — designed by Miami-based architecture firm Arquitectonica — is meant to look like separate office towers at first glance. although in reality its four curved walls merge together to create a single high-rise structure.
Once completed, two of the four building sections will feature rooftop gardens with multi-level terraces and seating areas.
Erik Schoennauer, a land-use and property consultant who helped steer the proposal through San Jose’s planning process, said the project will help the city achieve its job goals and add pedestrian vitality to the SoFA District and the Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
He touted the building’s “world-class architectural design” as its main feature.
“Having the appearance of four different towers and yet twisting up into a single building — it deviates significantly from San Jose’s history of rectangular box structures in downtown high rises,” Schoennauer said in an interview.
The building would face South Market, West San Carlos and South First streets, sharing a property line with the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel — known as The Montgomery — and an apartment building to the north.
In an environmental impact report, consultants noted the project would create “significant and unavoidable shade and shadow impact” on Plaza de César Chávez, located just west it.
Still, Councilmember Raul Peralez thanked city staff and the Sobrato Organization for working together to create a project meant to more broadly enhance the city’s downtown core.
“This has long been a surface lot that has certainly been in the city’s interest to want to have developed,” Peralez said during Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The office tower not only has the potential to transform San Jose’s skyline but also to force change with city regulations.
During the planning process for Sobrato’s Market Street Towers building, the developer was forced to modify its plans in order to not encroach on the public-right-of-way — in mid-air.
Because of the structure’s unique twisting design, some elements of the building would protrude over the street several dozen feet above ground level, which the city’s building code does not permit.
To allow it, Mayor Sam Liccardo instructed the city attorney to revise the city’s ordinance so it aligns with the International Building Code, which permits encroachments that are more than 15 feet above the ground.
“We are already so severely constrained by the height limits and our airport that really forces the somewhat squatty, boxy skyline that you see before you today, that the ability for architects to get more creative and build out is going to be really essential,” he said during the meeting.