SAN JOSE — A downtown San Jose housing highrise is still being actively planned despite the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s legal quest to seize the site, a developer says.
Roygbiv Real Estate Development intends to build a 26-story housing tower called Eterna Tower with 200 homes on two parcels at 17 through 31 E. Santa Clara St. But the transit agency has filed lawsuits in an effort to seize the sites needed for the development of the tower, whose units are expected to include dozens of affordable residences.
The VTA is using a process called eminent domain to try to gain possession of the parcels as part of a mammoth project to extend BART to San Jose’s Little Portugal area, downtown San Jose, and the Diridon train station.
“I disagree with the VTA’s conclusion that it needed to file an eminent domain” on the properties required for the tower, said Loida Kirkley, principal executive with Roygbiv Real Estate Development.
The legal team for the company is already engaged in negotiations and discussions with the VTA regarding the project site.
An affiliate headed up by Kirkley owns one parcel the VTA is attempting to seize at the location, a property with addresses of 17 and 25 E. Santa Clara St. In 2020, Roygbiv Real Estate Development paid $3.4 million to buy the property.
The adjacent parcel, with addresses of 29 and 31 E. Santa Clara St., is owned by a group operating as Z Hanna LLC, court papers show. Lars Fuller, an individual, is the provider of an existing mortgage on that property.
Kirkley’s group has also proposed the development of a housing tower around the corner on North Second Street that would provide affordable residences for seniors.
The transportation authority stated in the court papers that the parcels, along with other properties downtown and east of the downtown, are crucial sites that the agency needs for its BART extension.
“VTA seeks to acquire the property for the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase Two Project,” the agency said in court filings related to the eminent domain proceeding against the sites on East Santa Clara Street.
The extension itself is a vital link in BART’s expansion throughout the region, the VTA asserts.
By 2040, an estimated 54,600 people are expected to ride in the extension section, the VTA estimated.
DCI Engineers, in an April 2022 report, evaluated the feasibility of the construction of housing towers next to the proposed entrance to the downtown San Jose BART on East Santa Clara Street.
The engineering firm pointed to the development of a hotel and residences above a transit station in Hollywood, a hotel that was built in conjunction with a transit extension in San Francisco and a transit tower that was built over existing Seattle subway lines.
“DCI Engineers is confident that with close coordination and collaboration with BART and other public agencies, implementation of best practices from previous projects with similar levels of complexity, and detailed design of structural systems, constructing Eterna Tower in conjunction with a new BART transit station entrance can be accomplished,” the engineering firm said in its report.
Kirkley believes the development of more housing next to the BART station could be a crucial component to the rail line’s success.
“This is much-needed housing,” Kirkley said. “VTA is acting like they want a stand-alone station without connection to workforce housing.”