Repositioning a 1980s Icon

In San Jose, California, an aging office complex is reimagined as a destination workplace that prioritizes energy performance, health, wellness, and the human experience.

In northern San Jose, a 1980s complex occupying an entire city block was one of the first large-scale developments in Silicon Valley to recognize that tech tenants had very different space requirements than the traditional speculative office market. The flexible layout with three seven-story towers offered fast-growing tenants a larger footprint that could be contained within a single property, promoting security and identity. The complex, with 422,970 square feet of office space, was also a forerunner of the self-contained mixed-use campus, with retail and food amenities on the ground floor.

The current owner purchased the property in 2015 as part of a portfolio of high-quality office assets and wanted to update the complex to meet the demands of today’s tenants. The project’s “good bones” made it an excellent candidate for targeted repositioning, providing the flexible and appealing workplace that embodied the preferences and daily habits of modern office workers.

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Creating a sense of community and reactivating the ground floor were key priorities in the repositioning of the ’80s-era complex.

In designing the site’s future, LPA’s mandate was simple — create community and a destination that brings tenants together. Three primary goals were identified: reactivate the ground plane where people interact, create a mix of opportunities for activities and gatherings, and design for individual health and wellness.

The project’s defining feature was the three identical seven-story towers interconnected by a linear two-story building, containing three nearly identical lobbies. Ground-floor retail spaces and two restaurants, one on either end, were continually difficult to lease. Outdoor spaces were consumed mostly by blacktop and offered little curb appeal.

The building and its outdoor spaces had to work for people and a variety of formal and informal activities. Every solution is the product of an integrated design approach.

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The new design features different types of flexible collaboration spaces.

“Having better lobbies, better amenities and better outdoor spaces were all important to the client,” says LPA San Jose Managing Director Kim Izadi. The immediate goal was to create leasable space that people would enjoy coming to. The broader challenge, Izadi says, was taking what was basically one big homogenous building and transforming it into a family of properties.

The reimagining process was focused chiefly on the ground level. Retail and restaurant spaces were removed completely and replaced by a fitness center, indoor-outdoor conference center and tenant lounge. The three lobbies were each given their own distinct character, complemented by color-coded wayfinding tools in the belowground parking garages. “Everything used to look the same, so it was easy for people to lose their bearings,” Izadi says.

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Anchoring the renovation is a campus center and ground floor space known as “The Hub.” The Hub’s tower base was squared off with a new glass-encased façade, which expands the building’s footprint and creates curb appeal. Farther back, toward the main building, the once freestanding Hub is now connected to the campus via a prominent glass-enclosed reception area that’s accessible on either side from the exterior promenade.

Inside, The Hub now includes three distinct spaces: a flexible workspace with designated areas for small and large collaborations, including an adjacent sundeck and greenspace with amphitheater seating; a fitness center with exclusive access to an outdoor patio and canopy; and a nourishment area with café seating, accessible from the welcome center. While separate, these spaces work together to create more visible and accessible connections between the interior and exterior spaces.

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Outdoor spaces were crafted to support a variety of formal and informal activities.

LPA’s integrated team, including landscape architects and civil engineers, created a collection of indoor and outdoor areas that reflect what people actually want out of their workplace. Greater functionality was crucial to the reimagined process. “The building and its outdoor spaces had to work for people and a variety of formal and informal activities,” says LPA San Jose Studio Director Patrick McClintock. “Every solution is the product of an integrated design approach.”

Car-oriented amenities — a legacy of the ’80s — were downsized, and people-oriented infrastructure was prioritized. On either side of The Hub, two driveways that once bisected pedestrian access points and led to the garage were removed. (Garage entries remain on the project’s far ends.) Outdoor parking bays and dropoff areas have been heavily reduced and are now devoted to convenience and handicap parking, bicycle racks, e-bike charging stations and a rotating cast of food trucks.

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Different work spaces are designed to work together to create more visible and accessible connections between the spaces.

In addition to shaded outdoor work and lounge areas, including new greenspace for breakouts and casual gatherings, a pedestrian promenade now interconnects the three towers, with new signage and wayfinding directing people to multiple access points. The east and west arrival areas, on either side of The Hub, feature dedicated rideshare dropoff points, connected by walkways from the promenade. “We minimized parking without compromising accessibility,” McClintock says. “Accessibility and the pedestrian experience were accentuated by the removal of static parking spaces.”

Regenerative design played an integral role in the design of the new complex. A rooftop photovoltaic system — which generates about 400,000 kWh of electricity per year, offsetting 10% of the complex’s current usage — was designed to sit atop an existing trellis structure on the roof of the two-story building. This approach saved both time and money, bringing the estimated payback period for the project to eight years.

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A new fitness center with a direct connection to an outdoor deck was a welcomed addition to the complex.

Inside, LPA’s integrated design team devised a set of low-impact lighting solutions with an overall lighting power density of 0.55 W/sf, which represents a 45% reduction compared to the AIA 2030 Commitment’s baseline for interior projects. Outside, reclaimed water is used for the expanded landscaping program; additional bicycle racks and charging stations support San Jose’s strong infrastructure for alternate transit modes.

“We designed solutions that made the most sense for this project,” Izadi says. “Sustainable solutions like these consider the big picture, including long-term health and wellness outcomes.”

This design process for the new complex started before the pandemic, but its concepts have become more relevant and important as markets shifted. For those returning to the office, either full or part time, a dynamic and flexible workplace experience — rich with amenities that connect people, place and community — is more important than ever.