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Related Santa Clara Project Phase I Reviewed, Planned Parking Spaces Reduced

Resuming where they had left off on Jan. 29, the Santa Clara Planning Commission reconvened for a special session on Feb. 20 to make decisions about the future of the Related Santa Clara project located at 5155 Stars and Stripes Dr.

Despite the project having originally been approved by City Council in 2016, another round of approvals is now before officials due to the enormous size of the undertaking that will occupy 240 acres in northern Santa Clara. Both the Planning Commission and City Council will be making a series of decisions about each phase of the seven-phase mega-project.

With some preliminary site construction work already underway for Phase I, Commissioners approved the proposal for the construction of three project “blocks” that front Tasman Drive, geared for office, retail, restaurant, hotel and residential serviced apartments. The approval recommends that City Council give the developer, Related Companies the green light to proceed with the construction of Phase I, provided that they engage in further discussions about possibly increasing the amount of affordable housing and bolstering the Transportation Demand Management Plan.

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Although a majority of Commissioners were favorable about the development of what will be the equivalent of a small town on the City’s northern end, most also had reservations about some design features, parking supply, traffic impacts and environmental issues.

The project will feature a “signature” global food market and retail wood-framed building that’s somewhat reminiscent of San Francisco’s Ferry Building but with dramatic triangular arches on the facade. Several Commissioners lauded the design of the building but expressed disappointment about the appearance of other Phase I structures.

“I wanted something that invites me in to see the iconic architecture,” said Commissioner Nancy Biagini of the more plain frontage on Tasman Drive.

“It looks like glass boxes — Santa Clara deserves much better,” echoed Chair Anthony Becker.

Commissioner Suds Jain later added, “I’m very disappointed that the public has very little input into the architecture of this project.”

Because planning requirements have changed since 2016, the developer is now aiming to supply fewer parking spots, which will mostly be in subterranean garages. The original proposal was for 2,241 spots, but now 1,913 parking spaces are on the table. The move could save the developer between $12 and $18 million and was part of the impetus for commissioners wanting a more extensive Transportation Demand Plan — more alternative transportation options means that fewer people will need to park cars. Commissioner Steve Kelly advocated for an expanded shuttle service to be incorporated into the project’s community benefits as well as more housing given the influx of jobs that will ensue.

Related Santa Clara’s Phase I is expected to supply 440,000 square feet of office, 21,400 square feet of retail, 29,600 square feet of food and beverage spaces, a 381,000 square foot hotel, and 175,000 square feet of serviced apartments. The apartments would likely be serviced by the hotel and be designed for stays of a month or longer.

Construction of Phase I is expected to be complete in 2023. Phase 2, referred to as the “city center” is also scheduled for completion in 2023, and along with Phase 3 will provide residential. Phases 4 through 7 are predominately office buildings.

Once complete Related Santa Clara’s total 9.2 million square feet will be broken down into 5.7 million square feet of office, 700 hotel rooms, 1,680 housing units, 500,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of food and beverage establishments and 100,000 square feet devoted to entertainment.

The Santa Clara Planning Commission meets next on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m.

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The Mlnarik Law Group, Inc.

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