How Silicon Valley is Trying to be Like S.F.


November 18, 2015


Nov 18, 2015

As tech firms continue to gravitate to the playground of Google, Apple, Facebook and Tesla, many of their workers are demanding lifestyles more in tune with San Francisco’s urban setting. Long the suburban neighbor of San Francisco, Silicon Valley is undergoing an urban renaissance. Here’s everything you need to know about the changing housing market of the country’s tech mecca.

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St. Anton Communities division president Ardie Zahedani tells us the firm surveyed tech employees to find out what amenities would help them be productive at home. That led the firm to design iLounge spaces at its $88M Residences at Railway development in Campbell, slated to start construction in December. The transit-oriented development, shown below, will include 119 apartments, 32 townhomes and six duet homes, with the iLounges in the apartment building.

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The workspaces will be in the cabana-pool area, on the roof deck and in the main plaza of the apartment portion of the project, Ardie says. In those areas, residents have access to free WiFi, a printer/fax/scanner and office supplies, not to mention plenty of hot coffee. The spaces are designed with flexibility in mind, where seats and tables can be moved around to create “thought pods” for brainstorming sessions, and the rooftop and conference room have big-screen TVs to use for presentations. The conference room and a designated “quiet zone” can be used for meetings.

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St. Anton plans to build more than 1,000 transit-oriented development units in Silicon Valley during the next two years. Residences at Railway isn’t the only project where St. Anton has incorporated the iLounge concept. Ardie tells us the company has similar workspaces at it projects in Napa, Pleasanton (iLounge there shown above), Sunnyvale and Menlo Park. He expects to see more.

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At the Sunnyvale project (a planned iLounge is shown above), the 126-unit St. Anton ECR has a combination of live-work homes and traditional apartments and gives all residents access to common area business amenities. The live-work units will have dedicated signage space and parking in addition to ground-floor flex space that can be used however the resident wishes, Ardie tells us. A primary focus in the floor plan design is to allow flexibility for furniture placement while clearly setting the living and work area apart from one another, he says. Ardie says the iLounge concept fits with St. Anton’s sustainable living objectives, since residents who can get their work done at home won’t need to drive elsewhere to work as often.

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Other Silicon Valley projects are incorporating office and residential space in different ways.

Insight Realty managing director Dennis Randall tells us the firm is planning two projects that would bring more of the office space tech companies love and more residential housing that technology talent needs and wants in an urban setting that is close to work.

In a JV with investment partners King Wah Development and CNE, Insight has proposed a tower at 180 Park Ave in downtown San Jose. The $250M project would replace the old Parkside Hall behind The Tech museum with a 270-foot tower with 210k SF of office space on five floors, more than 200 residential units on 12 floors, two stories for a boutique hotel and penthouse residences on the top floor. Built on city land, the site would include exhibition space for The Tech museum.

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Then there’s Rail Yard Place, planned for 10.6 acres in San Jose previously owned by Union Pacific Railroad. Insight purchased the property in July for $7.75M with plans to build 240k SF of creative office space and about 475 apartments, as well as retail. The firm says the site will be bike- and pedestrian-oriented with amenity-rich residences. The offices will offer those large, open floor plates and high ceilings tech companies want, but in short supply in San Jose, Insight says. Construction is set to begin in 2017.

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Also in San Jose—right in the heart of downtown across from City Hall—is the SJSC Properties project that would lift two towers out of the same parking and retail pedestal. One 28-story tower would house 350 condos for sale, while the other 20-story tower would contain 350k SF of office space. The office tower is designed for flexible office space.

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Meanwhile, Federal Realty Investment Trust is growing Silicon Valley’s pioneering mixed-use development, Santana Row, started in 2002 in San Jose. The REIT is building a more than 234k SF Class-A office building at 500 Santana Row—a building Splunk signed a long-term lease in September to occupy upon completion next year. The building has six stories of office space above a four-level underground parking garage. Santana Row also has 65k SF of office space at 300 Santana Row and 50k SF of office space on the second floor above Santana Row’s shops and restaurants, Federal Realty reports. The site has 615 rental apartments, 219 residential condominiums and a boutique hotel.

In Mountain View, Federal Realty recently submitted a master plan to the city for San Antonio Center, which Federal Realty purchased earlier this year. The plan would take the site, home to big-box stores and plenty of parking, and transform it into blocks of buildings with streets, pathways and parks. Though actual development plans haven’t been put forth, the expectation is that the site would house a mix of residential, retail and office space.