Student-Housing Tower Planned for Techshop Site in Downtown San Jose

 In Real Estate

During the current rental housing boom, apartment builders have targeted one demographic above all others: High-end tech professionals in search of amenity-filled, luxury buildings.

A partnership that includes San Jose’s Barry Swenson Builder and the large California builder Amcal has acquired a key parcel downtown at 300 S. Second St. where it plans on building an 800-bed tower marketed at college students. The building, which could stretch 20 stories tall, would replace a site that’s currently home to the Techshop maker space. ( Techshop has already locked down a new home a short hop away.)

The price for the 1.1 acre L-shaped site was $13 million, according to title records.

“We like the site because it’s a block away from campus, which has over 30,000 students, and we feel there’s strong demand,” said Stephen Clark, director of market-rate housing for Amcal.

The project would have about 235 units, with four bedrooms per unit, each with a separate bath, arranged around a central kitchen and common area. While the project would welcome all comers, it’s decidedly targeted at students, who could pay $1,000 a month — considerably less than a one-bedroom market-rate unit in an apartment complex off campus.

“It’s a different kind of atmosphere,” Clark said. “We also provide resident assistants on each floor. We have a resident life program so there are activities to engage students. The amenities are designed for students. So there’s study rooms, but there’s also fitness centers, business centers, a pool.”

Amcal, based in Agoura Hills, develops market-rate, student and affordable housing across California, but this is its first project in the South Bay. Barry Swenson Builder is one of the region’s most storied local developers and builders. It also is considered a pioneer in building relatively tall buildings downtown. In recent years it has partnered with larger developers to get plans off the ground. It’s currently finishing up Century Court Towers, a 376-unit, two-tower apartment complex with partner Essex Property Trust.

Josh Burroughs, an executive with Barry Swenson Builder, started working on the concept months ago. He said the neighborhood is popular with students anyway, thanks to proximity to the artsy SoFA district. BSB will design the building and also serve as general contractor. (The architecture is in its early stages, and a rendering wasn’t available.)

The project is being developed as another major student housing project reaches completion. Symphony Development is finishing work on 27 North, a 119-unit mid-rise project across from City Hall that’s also targeted at San Jose State students. That project is reportedly largely leased prior to its planned opening.

One reason developers like the market: It’s fairly well insulated from the ups and downs of the economy because student-housing demand is pretty constant through market cycles. Clark said San Jose State, which is also building its own on-campus housing, is growing and shedding its status as a commuter college.

Case Swenson, president of Barry Swenson Builder, said he jumped at the chance to acquire the site from the longtime owners, the Renzel family. “They’d owned the property since 1930, and we appreciate being able to put together a deal with them,” he said. “They knew it needed to be redeveloped, and it was just time.”

John Kovaleski, David Bucholz and Steve Hunt of Colliers International represented the Renzel family. Chris Twardus, also of Colliers, represented the buyers.

The tower, which still must go through the city’s approval process, could be completed in the fall of 2019 or fall of 2020.

“One unique thing about student housing is you have to deliver the building at a given point in any given year,” Clark said. “You have to deliver it in July or August so you can start the school year. If you miss that date, you’re bumped to the next year.”

The tower will likely have some kind of retail fronting San Carlos Street, but more details will be available as the developers finalize the building design and meet with the city and downtown stakeholders.

The deal did not include four other parcels that together would complete the block. Those parcels include a .4-acre parcel owned by McDonald’s Corp.. which closed its restaurant at 90 E. San Carlos St. several months ago. Two other families own the other three parcels.

Clark said Amcal is not currently in contract on any of those pieces. But its possible that the larger site could still be assembled.


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