A historic two-story building in downtown San Jose will be converted into a high-rise apartment tower for hundreds of older adults, following a green light from city leaders.

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved plans from Roygbiv Real Estate Development to gut the Realty Building at 19 N. 2nd St. while maintaining its facade and part of its roof, and build a 22-story tower on the same 0.22-acre plot. All 220 apartments are planned to be rented at below market-rate prices and will be reserved for people aged 55 and older, city reports said.

The lack of clarity from the developer about whether they would offer relocation assistance to tenants currently in the building bothered some councilmembers, but all ultimately voted to support the project because they said affordable senior housing is critically needed.

District 3 Councilmember Omar Torres, who represents downtown where the building stands, said he will work to coordinate an assistance plan between the developer and current business tenants like Angelou’s Mexican Grill, who will be forced to move when construction starts.

The project’s architect, Kurt Anderson, said previously the project could break ground in about 18 months to two years, and once started, construction would take about two and a half years to finish.

“Angelou’s is an immigrant-based small business, that by the way has thrived with a very ugly empty building right in front of it, and small businesses around there have closed down,” Torres said. “We had Paper Moon there, Chromatic Coffee and a bunch of vitamin shops, and those all went out of business. Angelou’s continues to stay there, so I know the importance.”

Torres and District 5 Councilmember Peter Ortiz both expressed frustration that the current owner of the building and the developer had apparently not communicated with business tenants about the redevelopment plans for the building. The owners of Angelou’s previously told San José Spotlight they only found out about the plans when the city posted a notice in the window next door, and that the owners said nothing to them.

“Especially (for) our immigrant businesses, who might not have insight to our city processes and planning, a letter being received saying, ‘Hey, your building is being developed and you’re going to be displaced’ could be quite concerning,” Ortiz said.

Anderson said he would make a “personal promise” to Torres to work with him to help the businesses.

The head of the development company, Loida Kirkley, was not present at the meeting. She previously told San José Spotlight the company would provide some sort or relocation assistance to the current business tenants.

Historic landmark

The olive-green Realty Building was designated as a city historic landmark in 2001 and sits near the corner of Santa Clara Street, where Roygbiv has also proposed another apartment tower.

The apartments will be below market-rate, but on the upper end of the affordable housing scales. Roughly 25 apartments will be priced for residents earning up to 60% of the area median income, currently about $71,000 annually in Santa Clara County for one person, the developer said. The remaining apartments will be priced as affordable to people earning more than that, up to 120% of the area median income—about $141,000 annually for one person.

Mike Sodergren, the head of advocacy for Preservation Action Council San Jose, said his organization was torn about supporting or opposing the project.

“It’s hard to argue against the provision of affordable senior housing, but it’s also hard to accept, when you look at this project, that it can actually be built without destroying a city landmark,” Sodergren said.

Anderson, the architect, said his team showed the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission around the building to explain how the renovation and preservation will work. That commission and the city’s Planning Commission both recommended the council approve the project.

“We’re saving a lot more of that building than it sounds like,” Anderson said. “We’re saving the perimeter walls on both floors, we’re saving the whole floor system through the building.”

This story was originally published by San Jose Spotlight. Please use the original link when sharing: https://sanjosespotlight.com/senior-high-rise-coming-to-downtown-san-jose/