Approval For Threatened Eterna Tower by San Jose Planning Commission

Eterna Tower looking west, rendering by Anderson ArchitectsEterna Tower looking west, rendering by Anderson Architects

The San Jose Planning Commission has approved plans for a 26-story residential skyscraper for 17-31 East Santa Clara Street in Downtown San Jose, Santa Clara County. However, the project is threatened because the VTA aims to seize part of the land through eminent domain for the future San Jose VTA/BART Station. The project team believes Eterna Tower can contain the new train station entrance. The VTA disagrees.

ROYGBIV Real Estate Development is the project owner, working with Campbell-based Anderson Architects. The 273-foot tall structure is proposed to yield around 184,670 square feet with 192 apartments and 5,220 square feet of office space on the second floor. Around 42 units will be designated as affordable for low-income households. Parking is included for 51 bicycles.

Eterna Tower base facade in context, rendering by Anderson Architects

Eterna Tower base facade in context, rendering by Anderson Architects

Construction is projected to last around 29 months, from groundbreaking to completion. According to the planning application, “the proposed building design is that of a modern tower with cement cladding, some Art Deco elements, and color accents.”

The ground floor and basement have been designed to become an access point for the future underground BART/VTA Station. The following text comes from the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Eterna Tower, published earlier this month.

“The tower footings would be engineered in coordination with the BART tunnel, the tunnel platform, and the vertical circulation (e.g., elevators, stairs, and ventilation). The structural system for both the tower and the BART/VTA station would most likely need to be constructed simultaneously. According to the applicant, this process would involve consultation on the following items, but not limited to, architects, structural engineers, waterproofing techniques, geotechnical requirements, mechanical ventilation, lighting, fire safety, fireproofing, and sound abatement.”

Eterna Tower looking southeast, rendering by Anderson Architects

Eterna Tower looking southeast, rendering by Anderson Architects

The contention for the project is that the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, i.e., VTA, is saying it will not be able to construct the downtown Station if Eterna Tower is built. In June, the Bay Area News Group journalist George Avalos reported that a feasibility study by DCI Engineers concluded that with close coordination and collaboration, “construction Eterna Tower in conjunction with a new BART transit station entrance can be accomplished.”

On Wednesday, the day that Eterna Tower was approved, the city’s deputy director of planning Robert Manford said of the potential co-existing of the tower and station, “I think with creative design and a lot of good negotiation, this can be a very successful project.”

However, speaking with the San Jose Spotlight, Joseph Geha reports that the VTA director of Real Estate and TOD, Ron Golem, said, “either there can be a downtown San Jose BART Station, or there can be an Eterna Tower. There cannot be both.” From this statement, the prospect for negotiation appears dim.

Downtown San Jose Station depicted at 55 West Santa Clara Street with Option B brick scheme, image via VTA

Downtown San Jose Station depicted at 55 West Santa Clara Street, one of the two entrances proposed for public access to the train tracks, image via VTA

While the ultimate fate for Eterna Tower may be decided by the VTA invoking eminent domain, the project continues to proceed through the planning process for as long as ROYGBIV is the property owner.

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5 Comments on "Approval For Threatened Eterna Tower by San Jose Planning Commission"

  1. Now that the project is approved, VTA is going to have to spend a pretty penny (of taxpayer $’s) to acquire the site — via eminent domain — to acquire the site.

    Why doesn’t the VTA guy, Ron Golem, just work with the developer to accommodate both the future BART station and the much-needed housing?

    Seem ideal, from a “Transit Oriented Development (TOD) perspective, to have a ton of housing units right above a BART station.

    Agencies all over the world do it, why can’t the VTA?

    Golem comes across as a “my-way-or-the highway” contrarian, non-creative type.

    The public deserves better from our public officials.

    Perhaps someone else would be better to head up “Real Estate and TOD” the VTA?
    (VTA Board — are you listening?)

    • Seriously… Seems like the only reason it’s “tower or station” is because VTA guy says so. I get that it would be more work but it’s not like stations in actual buildings are a novel concept/haven’t been done before.

  2. Now that the project is approved, VTA is going to have to spend a pretty penny (of taxpayer $’s) to acquire the site via eminent domain.

    Why doesn’t the VTA guy, Ron Golem, just work with the developer to accommodate both the future BART station and the much-needed housing?

    Seem ideal, from a “Transit Oriented Development (TOD) perspective, to have a ton of housing units right above a BART station.

    Agencies all over the world do it, why can’t the VTA?

    Golem comes across as a “my-way-or-the highway” contrarian, non-creative type.

    The public deserves better from our public officials.

    Perhaps someone else would be better to head up “Real Estate and TOD” the VTA?
    (VTA Board — are you listening?)

  3. Buildings with major transit stations under them are standard in every other city in the world…why not San Jose?

  4. The developer has no intention of ever building the tower. They just wanted to get the property entitled so that they could get the most money possible from VTA. They are doing the same thing all over: maxing out their proposals and then sitting on them until someone gives them an offer.

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