SAN JOSE — Demolition is underway at the site of an old downtown San Jose building where a green office tower could sprout and enable people to work in a garden.
Construction equipment and debris from the start of the demolition of the old Parkside Hall complex were visible this week on the site of an office tower that will feature a “green lung” and a series of gardens.
The new highrise is being called Park Habitat, an office and retail complex that will total 1.2 million square feet when it is completed. A “green lung” is slated to be the centerpiece of the environmentally friendly tower.
Park Habitat is being developed by an alliance of mega-developer Westbank, a real estate firm with a global reach; and local developer Urban Community, which is headed up by Gary Dillabough and Jeff Arrillaga.
The new green tower represents one of at least seven distinct projects that Westbank and Urban Community are planning as part of what the companies call their downtown San Jose campus. The projects include multiple office and residential towers.
“San Jose has emerged as the natural future hub for Silicon Valley,” Ian Gillespie, Westbank’s founder, said in comments in late April to announce that the Park Habitat tower was getting underway. “The ingredients needed for intelligent city-building have converged there.”
The 20-story tower will include 60,800 square feet of museum space to be used for the expansion of The Tech Interactive museum, as well as 11,700 square feet of ground-floor retail for restaurants and shops.
“Our Park Habitat project marks a starting point in what we hope will become a broader contribution to this city and Silicon Valley as a whole,” Gillespie said.
The green tower will rise next to the 200 Park office tower, a highrise being developed by real estate firm Jay Paul Co.
“The Parkside Hall demolition has been a long time coming,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy.
The highrise at 200 Park Ave. is expected to be an eye-catching addition to the downtown San Jose skyline.
“The Westbank and Jay Paul projects side by side will create a cool area in downtown San Jose when completed,” Staedler said.
The demolition launch for Park Habitat means that three brand-new speculative office complexes are under construction at the same time in downtown San Jose: Park Habitat, 200 Park and Platform 16, which is near the Diridon train station.
Plus, tech titan Adobe is in the home stretch of the construction of a fourth office tower at its downtown San Jose headquarters complex.
Multiple proposals emerged for the redevelopment of 180 Park Ave. over the last several years. An early proposal would have added offices, homes and a hotel.
The latest proposal by Westbank and Urban Community appears to be the most dramatic version yet, a project designed by a world-renowned architect, Japan-based Kengo Kuma & Associates.
Park Habitat features a vast and open central courtyard, which the developers call a “green lung,” that would be open to the sky and provide both ventilation and cooling.
The tower includes pocket gardens and a rooftop forest, along with vegetation throughout the highrise.
“What if we could work in a park?” Kengo Kuma, founder and principal executive of the architectural firm, wrote in a post on the Westbank site.
The architect and the developers aim to upend the concept of the traditional office park. Many Silicon Valley tech parks have replaced orchards that once dotted the region’s landscape.
“Our opportunity lies in reversal, from office park to ‘park office,’ putting nature into the building instead of the other way around,” Kuma stated in the Westbank post.