Urban Catalyst Floats Housing Instead of Offices at Icon/Echo

Icon-Echo Towers evening view, rendering by WRNS StudioIcon-Echo Towers evening view, rendering by WRNS Studio

Urban Catalyst is now considering adjusting plans for Icon/Echo by replacing the office component with more housing in Downtown San Jose, Santa Clara County. The plan was floated by the developer founder, Erik Hayden, and reported by George Avalos for the Bay Area News Group. If altered, Icon/Echo could create over a thousand units from the two-acre parcel.

The latest public permit for the Icon/Echo complex, filed earlier this year, was for a minor adjustment in amenity open space and to remove the private open space of the Echo residential tower, with no adjustment to the Icon office towers.

Icon-Echo Towers vertical elevation, illustration by WRNS Studio

Icon-Echo Towers vertical elevation, illustration by WRNS Studio

Icon-Echo Towers sidewalk view, rendering by WRNS Studio

Icon-Echo Towers sidewalk view, rendering by WRNS Studio

The recent reporting by Avalos quoted Hayden as saying, “We are thinking about developing 650 multifamily units at Icon.” Alongside the 389 units in Echo, this would result in 1,039 apartments across the roughly two acres directly across from the San Jose City Hall.

WRNS Studio is the project architect. Initial plans paired the curtain-wall clad office block with stacked volumes divided by balconies, set next to a monotone residential tower with vertical pixelated features facing North 4th Street. Renderings show balconies facing toward Saint James Park.

Icon-Echo Towers at North 4th Street and St John, rendering by WRNS Studio

Icon-Echo Towers at North 4th Street and St John, rendering by WRNS Studio

147 East Santa Clara Street, via Google Satellite

147 East Santa Clara Street, via Google Satellite

San Jose City Council approved the mixed-use project in late 2022, with construction expected to start later this year. Shifting economic conditions in the Bay Area and nationally have pushed most large-scale construction to delay, including the city-altering proposal for Downtown West by Google. While the timeline for most of these projects has changed, almost none have been fully abandoned yet.

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11 Comments on "Urban Catalyst Floats Housing Instead of Offices at Icon/Echo"

  1. Might as well flip to skinnier towers to as it probably would be more valuable for residential units. This bulky massing I guess makes sense for a short city like SJ…. But it makes the skyline more Tulsa, OK and less a rival to SF or even Oakland.

    • They might as well build as much as they can in that footprint. The FAA height limit isn’t much taller than this, so short-ish buildings are to be expected.

  2. San Jose will always have a low skyline due to FAA height restrictions for the airport due north of downtown. SJ will always be a distant 3rd to Oakland and SF when it comes to high-rise architecture and legitimate urban density. SJ developed as a bedroom community without a signficant mass transit system resulting in a sprawling mini-LA type of city. Even LA’s downtown skyline and density pales in comparison to other major US cities.

  3. “FAA Height Limit”

    I really wish they removed SJC and instead upgraded Moffett Field (which covers almost as much land) as the new Silicon Valley airport. Moffett Field is in the better location, and still far enough from SFO.

    SJC has very, very few flights more than 3000 Mi anyway.

    This can enable over 20M new sqft to be built in San Jose, Santa Clara, etc. by going vertical. It can become a real alternative to SF for an urban center.

  4. JohnMichael O'Connor | September 13, 2023 at 1:59 pm | Reply

    The developer has pivoted far more quickly than the government in light of the high office vacancy rate fueled by the work from home movement. The city council still hasn’t grasped that if their dream of a vibrant downtown after business hours is ever to become a reality they don’t need more office space and they do need more residential construction. They have been doing it backwards since the mayor Tom McEnery/redevelopment director Frank Taylor days. San Jose is a bedroom community and 90% of the population has little to no interest in the vibrant “24 hour” downtown favored by mayor and city council after mayor and city council. In SJ, such a downtown will only be supported by an indigenous residential population. But even that seems unlikely in the short term given Google’s indefinite time out on its ambitious project just outside the downtown area. DT SJ will never have more than low to medium rise construction given FAA building height restrictions.

  5. Relocating major airports is rare. I can only think of Denver as an example. Moffett doesn’t really have enough land area or runway length. Filling the bay is a non-starter. San Jose is simply never going to grow into a true urban center with buildings topping out at 20 stories max.

    • Moffett has enough runway length. Just look at in on Google Maps.

      SJC only hosts puddle-jumper short flights anyway. The only two ocean-crossing international flights that temporarily went to SJC (from London and Tokyo) are both being discontinued.

      Government red-tape is the reason airports aren’t succeeded by others, not any other reason. Airport construction is fast and easy, since the buildings an airport consists of are simple.

      • I didn’t hear about ZipAir discontinuing their flights. Where did you hear this?

        • The SJC-Heathrow flight is ending October.

          The flight to Tokyo has so little volume that it is ending soon (I don’t know the exact month).

          The point is, we have Moffett Field which can suffice for the flights that SJC really does (99% are under 2000 miles), which in turn can enable 20M more sqft in Downtown SJ.

  6. JohnMichael O'Connor | September 15, 2023 at 1:45 pm | Reply

    Substituting Moffett for SJC is a non-starter for several reasons. Cleaning up the ground contamination under SJC from spilled jet fuel alone would be cost prohibitive. Runway length at Moffett is insufficient for some commercial aircraft already, and could never accommodate hypersonic aircraft. The residents of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Monte Sereno already object to the occasional touch and go military landings by military pilots. The constant stream of takeoffs and landings would be totally unacceptable and result in litigation. If Moffett were to become the successor to SJC, it would adversely affect all landings and many takeoffs at SFO and OAK. The ATC system and employees would be overwhelmed and the probability of near misses and midair crashes would increase to unacceptable levels.

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