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Diridon Plaza

In Design

33 S Montgomery St., San Jose, CA 95110

Project Overview

• Project Type: Office / Commercial

• Owner/Developer: Caltrain

• Presented to our members: November 2022

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Catalyze SV evaluates project sustainability, equity, and vibrancy. Learn about our project review process.

Diridon Plaza Project Scorecard
Project Overview:

The project proposes approximately 1.2 million square feet of commercial space through the construction of two buildings. Both the North and South building would be composed of predominantly office space at the upper levels with ground floor, mixed-use options like retail, entertainment, and open space. Ground floor amenities and public areas were planned and located to be compatible with the surrounding realm to achieve a cohesive and seamless transition from Diridon Station to the Diridon Plaza area. The proposal will incorporate a total of 758 underground parking spaces, of which 370 will be for electric vehicles. In addition, each building will include 168 long-term and 33 short-term bicycle parking spaces. As the team begins engaging community members and other stakeholders, our members would like to offer the following feedback on the project:

Diridon Plaza scored an overall 4 out of 5 from our Project Advocacy Committee members.

Community Score: 3/5

Our members are grateful to be one of the first organizations to provide community feedback to Caltrain. We see your forthcoming community engagement efforts as an opportunity to reach a broad base of stakeholders to shape one of the most transit-connected areas in the region. Some members were happy with early details regarding future community engagement, yet others wanted more detailed information on the specific list of stakeholders the development team will engage in the near future. Our members recommend future meetings with neighborhood associations, transit advocates, experts in placemaking, and the business community, as well as exploring digital surveys to reach community members who wouldn’t otherwise participate. It might be instructive to speak with your counterparts with the City of San Jose on the extensive, effective, inclusive community engagement efforts they pioneered in 2019-2021 in the Diridon Station area and the diverse populations they reached. Anytime a project is being built by a public agency on public land, it is right and fair to expect a high community engagement bar. So far, Caltrain has a ways to go to reach that bar. By incorporating our suggestions above, this category is one of the biggest opportunities for Diridon Plaza to increase its score.

Vibrancy Score: 4/5

Catalyze SV PAC members place a high emphasis on walkable and mixed-use projects that will enhance the pedestrian experience and connect to amenities. We believe the location, public space, and variety of amenities of this current proposal can do just that. Among the best received features were the open market concept for ground floor retail, the open plaza, and the terrace activation on the rooftops – features which benefit future tenants as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Our members also liked the architectural design of the two towers and the sightline it creates to highlight Diridon Station at its current location. Two of our recommendations: explore integrating a small children’s play area in the plaza and place a strong emphasis on ground-level cafes and restaurants. Denver’s Union Station could be an instructive model upon which Caltrain can draw.

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Transportation Score: 3/5

Our members really liked the inclusion of the short-term and long-term bicycle parking spaces, which we believe it will serve the needs of many commuters and incentivize using alternative modes of transportation. As we understand it, the two buildings combined have 758 car parking spaces (nearly 50% for electric vehicles), all of which will be underground. Our members were happy to hear this as it means active ground floors and a focus on pedestrian uses. Although our members are happy the development team is pursuing a reduced parking count, we still think it’s too much parking and would like it reduced. This is especially true because Diridon Plaza will be closer to extensive transit service than perhaps any other buildings in the entire area. Moreover, encouraging transit usage over driving cars will directly benefit Caltrain’s bottom line. As such, our members would like you, along with the future operator(s) of the buildings, to explore providing free transit passes to workers to maximize access to Diridon Station’s world-class transit. Catalyze SV staff are working right now with VTA on transit passes on its development sites, so if we can be helpful here, please let us know.

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Intensity/Zoning Score: 5/5

It’s fantastic to see development projects reach the maximum allowable heights. As we understand it, the South building will be 252 feet tall, and the North building will stand at 236 feet. The latter is slightly shorter to accommodate the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) flight path requirements. Our members wish the buildings could be taller yet understand it is out of Caltrain’s control. Overall, our members are strongly supportive of the proposed density and height and wish to see no changes that would reduce it.

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Sustainability Score: N/A/5

At this time, our members did not have enough substantive details on sustainability elements from your presentation to provide a score. Yet some features our members would like to see include all-electric buildings, solar panels, and a robust water-recycling system. We’d be happy to score this category as you make improvements and add more specificity to your proposal.

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Affordability Score: N/A/5

This category is not applicable to Diridon Plaza because the proposal doesn’t include any housing and the current site is a parking lot that won’t displace any residents or businesses.

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Legacy Score: 5 /5

Although the proposal is not on a historical site as far as we can tell, our members believe there is a sense of legacy around the Diridon Station worthy of highlighting. Notably, our members really liked the architectural design of the two buildings which will create a sightline focusing attention on the Station from far away. Overall, we believe the buildings can enhance the surrounding area and will create an open and seamless experience connecting the old with the new. One recommendation from our members is to explore adding additional historical elements like art pieces with an emphasis on the surrounding site’s history, including its transit past.

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