VTA seeks to seize site for downtown San Jose BART station entrance

SAN JOSE — A regional transit agency is maneuvering to seize the ownership of a key downtown San Jose site that is slated to become the entrance for a proposed BART station, court records show.

The property, located on West Santa Clara Street between North Market Street and North First Street, is the target of an eminent domain proceeding that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority has launched.

Swenson, a legendary real estate company, and an affiliate headed up by Preston Pipelines executive Michael Preston are currently the principal owners of the property, according to Santa Clara County assessment and court records.

The parcel in question has addresses that range from 41 through 55 W. Santa Clara St., property records show. The property totals 0.4 acres.

44 through 55 W. Santa Clara St., located between South Market Street and South First Street in downtown San Jose. Parcel is outlined. Boundaries are approximate.

JPMorgan Chase operates a bank branch at that location and is the only tenant listed in the complaint. However, the VTA also has operated an office next to the bank.

“Because of its location, the property is necessary for the construction of the Downtown San Jose BART station,” the Valley Transportation Authority stated in papers filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

At least a portion of the site is expected to eventually accommodate the main entrance of the BART station, conceptual images posted by the VTA show.

The court records didn’t state whether VTA had submitted any offers to the alliance of Swenson and Preston.

This news organization requested a comment about the situation from Swenson.

Deeds on file in Santa Clara County, as well as assessment records posted by the county, suggest that the parcel is undergoing an increase in property values.

In 2018, an affiliate of real estate investment firm Lift Partners paid a local family $3.75 million for the site. In February 2020, Green Valley paid $4.1 million for the site. As of mid-2021, the assessed value of the site was listed as $11.7 million.

“Just compensation” will be “ascertained and assessed and awarded” to the current ownership of the property, the VTA claimed in the court papers, which were filed on Sept. 27.

The BART entrance property is part of a huge block where a major redevelopment and mixed-use village is being contemplated. The block is bounded by West Santa Clara Street, North Market Street, West St. John Street and North First Street.

Office and residential towers next to a planned Downtown San Jose BART station on a block bounded by South Market Street, West Santa Clara Street, North First Street and West St. John Street, concept.

Office buildings, homes, shops, restaurants, hotel rooms, and open spaces are being planned for that block. Combined, these development uses are expected to total 1.84 million square feet. Early concepts for the site that the VTA released didn’t state how many residential units are being contemplated.

The Downtown San Jose Station complex is one of four stations that are being planned as part of the second phase of the BART extension into downtown San Jose. These other three stations are 28th Street/Little Portugal east of the downtown, Diridon Station on the western edges of the downtown, and a station in Santa Clara.

The Diridon train station already is a stop for Caltrain, light rail, ACE Train, Amtrak and Capitol Corridor rail lines. In addition to BART, a high-speed rail line is slated to operate a train stop at Diridon Station.

Google has proposed a mixed-use neighborhood near the train station called Downtown West that would consist of office buildings, homes, shops, restaurants, hotel operations, entertainment hubs, cultural centers and open spaces where the search giant could employ up to 20,000 people.

VTA in its court filing claims that an array of benefits arising from the BART extension into and beyond downtown San Jose justify the agency’s proposed seizure of the property.

“The project is critical to improving transit connectivity and is significant to the regional economy and future development,” the VTA claimed.

Elevated view of a transit village that will incorporate the Downtown San Jose BART station on West Santa Clara Street between North Market Street and North First Street, concept.


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