“Green lung” downtown San Jose tower offers carbon-neutral workplaces


SAN JOSE — A new office tower that’s slated to sprout in downtown San Jose is poised to bring the first-ever carbon-neutral workspace to downtown San Jose, a highrise that will provide employees with offices in a garden.

Park Habitat, an office and retail complex totaling 1.2 million square feet, would feature a “green lung” that is expected to be the centerpiece of the environmentally friendly tower once it’s completed.

“San Jose is proud to celebrate the start of construction on one of the first fully net-zero carbon workspaces in the nation on Earth Day,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

The project, which also will expand The Tech Interactive, is being built by an alliance of mega-developer Westbank and local developer Urban Community.

Park Habitat office tower at 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, showing adjacent buildings, concept. (Hayes Davidson/Westbank)

“I’m excited that Westbank is moving forward with this project,” San Jose Councilmember Dev Davis said. “Park Habitat is going to be a fantastic building that brings the indoors and the outdoors together.”

The launch of the Park Habitat tower means that downtown San Jose has three speculative office complexes under construction at the same time: 200 Park by development firm Jay Paul Co. and the first phase of Platform 16 by Boston Properties.

And a fourth major office complex, a tower that Adobe is building for the tech titan’s downtown headquarters expansion, is in the latter stages of construction.

“The Park Habitat project emphasizes the unique opportunity for San Jose to become a world leader in responding to climate change while developing an active, vibrant, and ultimately inspiring community in our city’s core,” Councilmember Raul Peralez said.

The eye-catching 20-story tower will include 60,800 square feet of museum space to be used for The Tech Interactive’s expansion, as well as 11,700 square feet of ground-floor retail for restaurants and shops.

Park Habitat, 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, evening view, concept. (Kengo Kuma and Associates/Westbank)

“This project will deepen our impact and the world’s ability to solve some of its biggest challenges including climate change,” said Katrina Stevens, chief executive officer for The Tech Interactive.

Park Habitat represents one of at least seven distinct projects that Westbank and Urban Community are planning that would create 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,” said Ian Gillespie, Westbank’s founder. “The ingredients needed for intelligent city-building have converged there.”

The Westbank and Urban Community endeavors also include a top-to-bottom, inside and outside revamp and renovation of the historic Bank of Italy building.

“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.”

The environmentally friendly Park Habitat tower contains features that could create a site that’s carbon-neutral, also known as a net-zero development.

Jeff Arrillaga (L) and Gary Dillabough (R), partners with real estate development and investment firm Urban Community, with a portion of the downtown San Jose skyline in the background. Visible is the site of a proposed Westbank and Urban Community office and retail tower called Park Habitat. (George Avalos/Bay Area News Group)

“Our vision for San Jose has always been to place community at its core, with projects that put people first,” said Gary Dillabough, a partner with Urban Community. “Our net-zero campus initiative is part of this vision.”

Japan-based Kengo Kuma & Associates, a world-renowned firm, is Park Habitat’s lead designer and architect.

Common areas and walkways with gardens in Park Habitat, 180 Park Ave. in downtown San Jose, concept. (Kengo Kuma and Associates/Westbank)

“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 want 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 website post.

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.

Street-level view of Park Habitat, 180 Park Ave., downtown San Jose, concept. (Kengo Kuma and Associates/Westbank)

The launch of the Park Habitat project, scheduled for Earth Day on April 22, is the latest in what appears to be a sudden burst of construction activity in downtown San Jose.

“Park Habitat’s breaking ground shows the strength of downtown San Jose’s office market,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy.

Westbank believes that it can trigger dramatic changes in how office and residential projects are developed, not only in San Jose but throughout Silicon Valley.

“It’s time we question the basic building blocks of our communities,” Gillespie said. “We are spending hours a day commuting, our work environments are uninspiring and unhealthy and so is much of our housing. Our initiative in San Jose is part of our commitment to cities and to creating healthier, more resilient and sustainable communities within them.”

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