22-Story Condo Opens, Is City’s Tallest Residential High-Rise

By Teresa O’Dea Hein, Managing Editor San Jose, Calif.–Residents have begun moving into The 88, San Jose’s newest and tallest high-rise residential tower, which was just honored as “Design Project of the Year” in the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal’s annual Structures Awards.Named for both its address, at 88 E. San Fernando St., and its height, at just about 88 meters tall, The 88 contains 197 condominiums. Designed by SB Architects and developed by Wilson Meany Sullivan, both based in San Francisco, The 88 also was the runner up in both the “Mixed-Use Project of the Year” and “Community Impact Project of the Year” categories of the annual Structures Awards. The 88 is part of a city effort to turn San Jose’s downtown into a major urban destination on par with its ranking as the tenth most populous city in the country. Harry Mavrogenes, director of the city Redevelopment agency, describes the new high-rise residential developments as a critical step in bringing people to the city center. To that end, the Redevelopment Agency has invested about $20 million in the downtown block that includes The 88 and a second tower that is in the planning stages. In total, The 88 is the first of four new high-rise residential structures in downtown San Jose, which together will bring will bring 853 new residences to downtown.Furthermore, this condominium is adjacent to the North First Street light rail line, part of the Valley Transportation Authority network which connects residents with Silicon Valley employers less than 15 minutes away.“To respond to the challenge of creating a signature tower, while remaining under the height limit for downtown San Jose, we came up with a tower design that combines two interlocking masses—one glass—to take advantage of views of the surrounding hills, and one concrete, to provide a sense of solidity and connection to the mixed-use structure below,” says Tom Sprinkle, vice president and principal of SB Architects. On the roof, an angled cap with a white surface on its largest side cloaks infrastructure systems and provides a contrasting element to complement the angles and vertical lines of the 22 floors below.“It was important to us that the building make a modern, urban statement,” Sprinkle tells MHN. “We designed the building to be as tall as possible, while keeping the footprint of the tower as small as possible, maximizing the open space on the podium—essentially creating a resort lifestyle in an urban setting. Interlocking several masses to form the tower was important, in order to decrease the sense of the scale of the building overall, while maximizing the views,” adds Sprinkle. “San Jose is actively changing the face of its urban core, and it was important to distinguish it from other development taking place downtown.”“The distinctive architecture of The 88 is a statement to the region that downtown San Jose is coming into its own,” says Seth Bland, project manager and partner at Wilson Meany Sullivan, the project developer.The 88 juxtaposes a graceful residential tower with a mid-rise, mixed-use structure below. Residences enjoy panoramic views of the city and the valley beyond, and overlook private amenities —a pool, fitness center, terrace, outdoor lounge, entertaining center and billiards room—located on the podium. A ground-level pedestrian plaza flanked by shops and restaurants will provide a central spine and gathering place between The 88 and the planned second tower. Five levels of parking, three subterranean and two above the streetfront retail, serve 32,000 square feet of retail, as well as the 20 floors of residential development. There is a pending agreement with a major grocery chain for the retail space. And buyers have reportedly been responding positively. Contracts were signed to purchase 69 newly built condominiums in Santa Clara County in September, up from just 28 condo sales initiated in September 2007, according to a report by the California Building Industry Association. Four of the top-selling projects were in or near downtown San Jose, and The 88 was a close second on that list, selling 10 condos in September, including two pricey penthouses—one for at least $1.25 million and another for at least $1.5 million.HKS Architects acted as executive architect for the project.