In an effort to boost downtown business, a Los Altos developer has submitted plans to the city for a 77,000-square-foot office building on First Street that includes a public village square.
Submitted April 11, the proposal for the three-story building is part of a First Street Green project spearheaded by Los Altos Community Investments. The 22,000-square-foot village square would feature a green space above an underground public parking garage on Parking Plaza 7 facing Safeway on First Street.
“What this project aims to do is bring more people down to Main and State streets,” said Joanne Price, LACI’s asset manager. “It can become a bit more viable to do business downtown.”
LACI officials believe that a three-story office building would be a better fit for Los Altos than a two-story, 30-foot-tall structure on First Street. Spreading 77,000 square feet over three floors rather than two allows more public space. If the city approves the three-story proposal, LACI would allocate 4,700 additional square feet of green space to the village square.
“The three-story option allows us to create massive setbacks,” said a LACI representative who asked not to be named.
The Los Altos city code enables developers to build taller than otherwise permissible if they give a public benefit in return. According to LACI officials, the project offers several benefits to the city.
In addition to the 4,700-square-foot addendum to the square, LACI is proposing to give the city 40 parking spots (in addition to the one-for-one replacements it would make when constructing an underground parking structure beneath the square), public meeting space inside the office building and public bathrooms on the square.
Jon Wright, project manager with the Sares Regis Group of Northern California, which is collaborating with LACI on the project, said such benefits would work with the ongoing Downtown Vision project the city is pursuing.
“The project captures the best benefits of the visioning so far,” he said.
According to Wright, the plans will be reviewed at a yet-to-be-scheduled public study session in early May. Concerns may be addressed in a public setting and resolved by the architects before a construction process that Wright estimated at 18-20 months. It has been an incremental process so far to add additional Class A office space in Los Altos.
According to the LACI official, a LEED Platinum certification (which means the building is one of the most sustainable and environmentally friendly new constructions) “is the goal.” The design materials have not been finalized, nor has the mix of tenants in the space.
“We are leaving it flexible, but we want to bring in local tenants,” the LACI representative said.
The plans call for two entryways into the underground garage – on Shasta Drive and from Parking Plaza 7. The first floor of underground parking would hold 113 public parking spots, and there would be additional employee and public stalls on other floors. LACI estimates at least 361 new parking stalls.
“We recognized that parking is an issue in town,” said the LACI representative, who added that the developers are talking with the city about how to create additional public parking stalls with the city’s collaboration. “If they want to increase parking, now is the time to do it.”
All of the development comes at the expense of the eight buildings LACI owns on First Street. Officials said five of those buildings are functionally obsolete, and the other three are not economically viable. Bumble restaurant and the Area 151 arcade would lose their buildings in the plan but be relocated to a different part of downtown.
“Bumble is one of our gems,” the LACI representative said, “but the building itself will have to go.”
For LACI, the redevelopment on First Street is an attempt to bring workers downtown on a daily basis. Price said the three-story building would be a welcome addition to downtown Los Altos’ urban fabric.
“This town has a really strong backbone,” she said. “You can see that the infrastructure is here.”