Sweeping changes are ahead for an area just off the Lawrence Expressway in Santa Clara, as housing demand pushes for the conversion of aging industrial buildings into residential communities. In 2016, The City of Santa Clara adopted the Lawrence Station Area Plan (LSAP) to guide the transition of an underutilized industrial area near the Caltrain Lawrence Station into an active transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. The plan area’s 72 acres bounded by Kifer Road, Lawrence Expressway, Central Expressway and the Calabazas Creek, are envisioned for as many as 3,500 housing units, 100,000 square feet of retail and about 6.3 acres of publicly accessible open space.
A residential project at 3305 Kifer Rd. was one of the first development projects proposed to the City after the LSAP was adopted. True Life Companies submitted the original plans for a row of townhouses on the 1.91 acre site located at the northeastern corner of Kifer Road and Corvin Drive, and gained entitlements for the project before selling it to Toll Brothers in mid-2017. Although preliminary rough grading work has begun to get the site cleared and ready for vertical construction, Toll Brothers has been working with Woodley Architectural Group on resubmitting plans with slight design modifications for review by the Planning Division.
“We invest in older, industrial properties where there’s a housing shortage, prepare the sites for companies like Toll Brothers and take projects through the entitlement process,” said Joe Fraser, VP Partner Relations California, True Life Companies. “Our cause is to help solve the housing imbalance. We love the idea of being around transit and the new residential use allows for a greater property value than industrial.”
Gloria Sciara, development review officer for Santa Clara’s Planning Division, said that the City has been supportive of the project and expects ground breaking to take place sometime this summer with occupancy by the end of 2019. Sales could open as early as the third quarter of this year with homes starting in the low $1 millions.
The project, known as One Lawrence Station, is slated to deliver 45 townhouses with a mix of three and four-bedroom units equipped with two-car garages and storage space. Ten guest parking spaces are planned for the development. Out of a total of four floor plans, one will offer three-story homes while the other three will be four-stories with roof terraces. All floor plans feature a balcony and each building is equipped with solar panels.
An outdoor plaza is geared to provide shared open space for residents. As part of a community benefit associated with the project, improvements will be made to the public entrance of Creek Trail along the Calabazas Creek that borders the property. The development is divided into eight buildings, however individual units have private ground floor entrances. The overall architectural style is described as modern, utilizing a stucco finish as the primary material.
“It’s modern but common transitional, so it should have wide appeal,” said Mike Woodley, president of Woodley Architectural Group. “Tastes are changing and people are preferring the modern feel; nostalgia for older styles is diminishing. A lot of townhouse designs tend to be expressed in a rigid row—this is fresh and looks like an overall building design with butterfly roofs. It feels like a united building.”
The property is currently within the Light Industrial zoning district carrying a commercial office land use, which will be changed to LSAP-residential to allow for the homes. The site is less than one mile from Caltrain and a short distance from Whole Foods Market and Costco Wholesale. Other land uses currently in the vicinity are a data center, industrial offices, a recording studio and warehouses.
“Silicon Valley is a great market and a popular area to live,” said Alex Geonnotti, project manager at Toll Brothers. “One Lawrence Station in Santa Clara fits within our business model of building luxury homes in promising markets with high demand for housing.”
One Lawrence Station residents will likely have ample neighbors in 2019. SummerHill Homes has a large residential building under construction on a 27 acre lot at 3505 Kifer Rd. The development called Nuevo will bring just under 1,000 housing units, a combination of rental and for sale, and about 40,000 square feet of neighborhood-serving retail and restaurants. The plans are stocked full of amenities such as public parks, a community garden, community center, dog park, sporting facilities, swimming pools and fitness centers. Woodley Architectural Group also worked on Nuevo.
Between One Lawrence Station and Nuevo as well as other future development, the character of the LSAP’s 72 acres will dramatically change in the years ahead. Of the total land area, about 65 acres can be developed, geared for a variety of housing types with a density of 45 to 56 units per acre. A series of integrated elements like walkable streets, retail, restaurants, housing, public parks, grocery stores will hinge on the close proximity to Caltrain, operating within the greater context of Silicon Valley’s booming job hub. For these broad changes to occur much of the Light Industrial zoning will shift to allow for residential and mixed-use development, however, Sciara stated, some industrial users are expected to stay in the area.