Loft House – Silicon Valley Low-Rises Fit In, Professionally and Socially

Multifamily Executive

June 24, 2015

Sunnyvale, Calif., Loft House draws young professionals with employer-centric location, neighborhood connection.

Downtown Draw
Sunnyvale, Calif., among Silicon Valley’s larger cities with 148,000 residents, was facing an increasingly common urban problem: It had downtown employers but lacked new housing with amenities and nearby after-hours attractions. Efforts to revitalize the area with a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly core had begun. Two multistory apartment complexes were among the initial efforts. On opposite sides of a street where an old parking lot and retail mall once stood, the mixed-use Loft House opened this past December, with 133 market-rate apartments.

Fitting In
Developer Carmel Partners and KTGY Architecture + Planners, both based in San Francisco, designed Loft House as two separate, low-rise buildings atop podiums, to take advantage of views of Plaza del Sol and historic Murphy Avenue. The 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space works as a neighborhood connector, especially because of its popular Philz Coffee shop. The larger building, designed in a “U” shape and with Plaza views, rises five stories and contains 85 units, including six two-story townhomes. The other building stands four stories high and houses 48 apartments. All units have one or two bedrooms. To lend a lively street rhythm, the exteriors of both structures are patterned in French gray, white, and green siding, but in inverse schemes, says KTGY principal David Senden.

Parallel Socializing
The developer requested a cool, urban aesthetic inspired by boutique-style hotels that would appeal to a young, but not “hipster,” demographic, says designer Karen Mattice, owner of Studio 4D, based in Denver. She went for clean, organic lines; warm wood detailing; and accents of pale green and taupe/gray. And because the overall architectural trend is for public spaces to reflect an open, loft-style plan rather than be compartmentalized—similar to what’s occurred in the units—the common areas serve multiple functions. “People are willing to hang out in the same area and maybe share a long communal table, but they may not socialize with each other,” Mattice says.

Night and Day

Because of the California location, outdoor space became a key asset for Loft House, with the units designed to include a terrace or balcony; two courtyards for gathering; and a streetscape spruced up with Hungarian oak trees, benches, and improved pavement. “We wanted more of a dialogue between the neighborhood and buildings yet also have some contrast and punch,” says landscape architect Cathy Garrett, president of PGAdesign, Landscape Architects, in Oakland. The larger building’s third-floor outdoor space is busiest during daytime, with a resort-style pool and cabanas, outdoor kitchen, and mature palms. Conversely, the smaller building’s ground-level courtyard, with fire pit, barbecues, dining area, and stage, make it more of a nighttime draw.

Green Scene
Both buildings demonstrate Carmel Partners’ interest in obtaining California’s GreenPoint Rated certification for Loft House, which it did through the project’s transit-oriented location, car-charging stations, drought-tolerant plants, and efficient irrigation system. Also contributing to its green status are the development’s energy-efficient lighting, windows, and insulation, as well as the natural light admitted through its oversized windows.

Big-City Alternative
The downtown neighborhood hasn’t become a high-density urban core, but it’s transitioning from being a 1960s-style community with suburban sensibilities into something far busier and younger, says Garrett. “The plaza was never used [before], and now there are tons of people to give it a greater sense of community,” she says.

For many, Sunnyvale represents a less–traffic-heavy and less-costly alternative to San Francisco, says Eric Snow, director, development, for Carmel Partners. Rents at Loft House range from $3,320 for 675 square feet to $5,800 for 1,461 square feet. The buildings were fully leased by their completion and are now at about 97% occupancy.

“It’s exactly what Sunnyvale needed,” Snow says. And more is in the pipeline: A short distance from the local train station, more than 100 apartments are being built that will expand the metro’s living options.