Santa Clara Square creates urban village near busy roadways

The Mercury News

Posted In — News & Press | In the News

SANTA CLARA – Urban villages are centerpieces of numerous project proposals these days, but developer Irvine Company has transformed the concept into reality with its mixed-use village in Santa Clara, where at least 7,000 workers will be employed.

Santa Clara Square, perched along U.S. 101, is bringing the urban village concept to life with a fast-expanding project that has attracted high-profile tech and retail tenants.

“We are excited about how Santa Clara Square is turning out,” said Todd Hedrick, a regional vice president with Irvine who is leading the office leasing quest at the complex of office buildings, stores, restaurants, residences and open spaces. “We expect to have somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 employees who will work at the project.”

Ericsson, Amazon, Veritas, AMD, Analog Devices and Hitachi are among the major tech companies that have struck deals at Santa Clara Square. Whole Foods is the project’s retail anchor.

“We have been very deliberate and very selective in choosing the retailers and restaurants,” said James Jessen, senior director of leasing with Irvine. “You see our office customers visiting the restaurants in Santa Clara Square every day and shopping at Whole Foods.”

Retailers other than Whole Foods include restaurants Puesto, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Il Fornaio. Irvine is pushing ahead to fill the remaining space left in the first phase of the retail.

“We are being very selective and we are actively working with potential tenants on that remaining space,” Jessen said.

Now, Santa Clara Square is poised to complete its village components with hundreds of residential units.

“Irvine has created a fantastic master-planned development,” said Erik Hallgrimson, executive managing director with Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial realty brokerage. “This project has been a resounding success.”

The development has arrived at a time when traffic jams seem to worsen by the year, grinding down an ever-growing number of workers with brutal commutes.

“We will continue to become more of a village once the apartments come on-line,” Hedrick said. “A truly complete village is really an element that we will see once the apartments are complete.”

Irvine aims to position Santa Clara Square as a place for people to literally walk from home to work, or to a grocery store, shops and restaurants, all without jumping in a car.

The office buildings total 1.7 million square feet – the equivalent size of a big regional mall in the Bay Area such as Sunvalley mall in Concord or Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose. The retail’s first phase, Santa Clara Square Marketplace, totals 125,000 square feet, including the 50,000-square-foot Whole Foods. The second phase of the retail will total 40,000 square feet and serve as a town center for the complex. The development also will contain 1,800 residences.

“We have had some inquiries about the apartments from the companies that have leased the office spaces,” Hedrick said. “There is definitely an interest level from the companies in Santa Clara Square.”

Santa Clara Square has prospered despite its relative distance from any major rail lines or train hubs. Proximity to train lines has, in recent years, become an essential component for Bay Area projects.

Notwithstanding that conventional wisdom about optimal development sites for mixed-use villages, Santa Clara Square’s primary transportation enticement is the project’s immediate access to the interchange of U.S. 101 and Bowers Avenue

“Irvine spent a great deal of time and effort figuring out where are the very best sites for these kinds of developments in Silicon Valley,” Hallgrimson said. “Santa Clara Square is one of those sites.”

Santa Clara Square is a mixed-village that was ahead of its time, according to Chad Leiker, a first vice president with commercial realty brokerage Kidder Mathews, a first vice president with commercial realty brokerage Kidder Mathews.

“Irvine really found a location that was under-served,” Leiker said. “The housing was needed at that location. Whole Foods, the stores, the restaurants, those are all needed there. Santa Clara Square was built before being close to mass transit became a developer objective.”

The thousands of office workers at Santa Clara Square will help fuel a virtuous loop that creates ready-made customers for the restaurants and shops, as well as residents for the housing.

“One thing the companies recognize is the efficiency of the work day for their employees,” Hedrick said. “Right in the project where they work, they have these great amenities right outside their front doors. They can shop, dine, exercise, get groceries, all right there. And they will also be able to live there.”

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