Google on Wednesday released its most detailed plans yet for a San Jose ‘city-within-a-city’ development that will add 7.3million square feet of office space and 4,000 homes to the downtown area.
The Google village, named Downtown West, would include shops, restaurants, a hotel, and cultural and entertainment hubs, as well as potentially acting as the campus for 25,000 Google employees.
The internet giant has continued with its plans for the development despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that saw them transition to a work from home model in spring.
The company in July decided that it will keep its employees working from home until at least July 2021, affecting 200,000 full-time and contract employees across its parent company Alphabet.
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An artist’s sketch of Google’s Downtown West development in San Jose
The return date for employees had originally been scheduled for June of this year.
If employees do return to Google offices next summer, Downtown West may still only be in its planning and review phases.
The company has not given an expected building start date as the planning process may be even further delayed as a result of the pandemic.
Google submitted its initial application to the San Jose planning division on October 10, 2019.
On Wednesday, they submitted updated plans in two major documents, officials said.
Google submitted a plan Wednesday detailing how the area would maintain ‘core character’
The company submitted the more detailed plan this week which showed its idea for the green spaces and parks in the area. At least 30 acres will be for homes and public spaces
One was a a 1,350-page draft environmental impact report, while the other details the design guidelines and how the buildings would be massed.
The final environmental review is projected to be submitted before the city moves into a decision-making phase by summer 2021.
Public hearings will be held online during this process, as well as formal votes .
‘We embrace this vision not because it’s Google’s, but because it encompasses the aspirations for a vibrant, dynamic downtown that our community has long held, as generations of San Joseans have sought to create a regional destination reflective of our authentic, diverse character,’ San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said, according to Mercury News.
‘Particularly amid all the challenges of this pandemic, I’m grateful for the persistent collaboration between Google and city staff to enable our community to benefit from thousands of jobs, affordable apartments, vibrant retail and restaurants, public plazas, and park space.’
The company has also planned for cultural and entertainment hubs
The improved plans detailed the zoning for the Downtown West development
‘We’re excited about this next step in our project, which incorporates feedback from thousands of people over the last two years and provides another opportunity for community input,’ added Alexa Arena, Google’s development director for San Jose.
The Downtown West area in San Jose covers 80 acres, 55 of which can be developed.
Of this, 30 acres will be for housing and public spaces.
Within the plan, Google has agreed to work with the city to ensure that 25 percent of the homes in the Diridon Station area will be affordable.
The company has said that the 4,000 new homes will be affordable for people of all income levels.
‘We continue to hear that housing and preserving affordability is a priority for San Jose, and our proposal offers more affordable housing, job pathways and community spaces for San Joseans,’ Arena said.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, decided in July that Google employees would not be returning to the office until at least July 2021
The development must also blend into the surrounding neighborhoods instead of acting as a stand-alone tech campus.
‘Downtown West is designed to be a true part of the city, the opposite of a traditional corporate campus,’ said Laura Crescimano, founder of SITELAB urban studio, the project’s lead urban designer.
‘The draft design standards and guidelines published today set out the roadmap for a resilient and connected Downtown West.’
And historical buildings and natural features in the area must also be incorporated into the plan.
‘Our team worked with Google to draw on the uniqueness of the location to propose a place where urban life and nature can coexist,’ Crescimano said.
‘We’ve brought together new and historic buildings, opportunities for arts and culture, playful spaces, and moments of respite along the Creek.’
According to the draft environmental impact plan submitted on Wednesday, the project will not create any net additions in greenhouse gases.
The company says that the new buildings they develop will be nearly 100 percent electric and 65 percent of travel would involve mass transit, bicycling and walking.
The plan includes the ability for Downtown West to generate 7.8 megawatts of on-site solar energy as well as featuring its own local microgrid.
Google’s plan has been welcomed by city officials who say that the ‘city-within-the-city’ will be of enormous benefit to residents.
The estimated timeline for the project as of Wednesday. The final environmental impact report will be submitted by this winter and a decision could be made by summer 2021
‘This is the next level of development for San Jose,’ said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
‘You have the housing, the affordable housing, and certainly the offices are there. But you also have the extraordinary combination of open spaces and cultural uses that makes it really unique.
‘This is like a city within the city,’ Knies added. ‘Downtown West will not be a forest of high buildings. It’s darn impressive.’
‘At a time when so much in our world is on pause due to COVID, it’s heartening to know that San Jose’s most significant long-term urban development project is on track and hitting a key milestone’ with the filings, Deputy City Manager Kim Walesh said.
‘Google is moving forward with Downtown West, its extraordinary project and investment in San Jose.’
The project is not without its critics, however, as some locals fear that it will displace working families and communities of color amid the pandemic.
‘The pandemic has made the biggest concerns from the community about this project — preventing displacement, adding affordable housing, and ensuring quality jobs for working families and communities of color — even more critical,’ said Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign director with Silicon Valley Rising who are fighting again the plan.