Sunnyvale, Calif., among Silicon Valley’s larger cities with 148,000 residents, was facing an increasingly common urban problem: It had downtown employers but lacked new housing with amenities and nearby after-hours attractions. Efforts to revitalize the area with a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly core had begun. Two multistory apartment complexes were among the initial efforts. On opposite sides of a street where an old parking lot and retail mall once stood, the mixed-use Loft House opened this past December, with 133 market-rate apartments.
Developer Carmel Partners and KTGY Architecture + Planners, both based in San Francisco, designed Loft House as two separate, low-rise buildings atop podiums, to take advantage of views of Plaza del Sol and historic Murphy Avenue. The 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space works as a neighborhood connector, especially because of its popular Philz Coffee shop. The larger building, designed in a “U” shape and with Plaza views, rises five stories and contains 85 units, including six two-story townhomes. The other building stands four stories high and houses 48 apartments. All units have one or two bedrooms. To lend a lively street rhythm, the exteriors of both structures are patterned in French gray, white, and green siding, but in inverse schemes, says KTGY principal David Senden.
The developer requested a cool, urban aesthetic inspired by boutique-style hotels that would appeal to a young, but not “hipster,” demographic, says designer Karen Mattice, owner of Studio 4D, based in Denver. She went for clean, organic lines; warm wood detailing; and accents of pale green and taupe/gray. And because the overall architectural trend is for public spaces to reflect an open, loft-style plan rather than be compartmentalized—similar to what’s occurred in the units—the common areas serve multiple functions. “People are willing to hang out in the same area and maybe share a long communal table, but they may not socialize with each other,” Mattice says.
Night and Day
Because of the California location, outdoor space became a key asset for Loft House, with the units designed to include a terrace or balcony; two courtyards for gathering; and a streetscape spruced up with Hungarian oak trees, benches, and improved pavement. “We wanted more of a dialogue between the neighborhood and buildings yet also have some contrast and punch,” says landscape architect Cathy Garrett, president of PGAdesign, Landscape Architects, in Oakland. The larger building’s third-floor outdoor space is busiest during daytime, with a resort-style pool and cabanas, outdoor kitchen, and mature palms. Conversely, the smaller building’s ground-level courtyard, with fire pit, barbecues, dining area, and stage, make it more of a nighttime draw.
Both buildings demonstrate Carmel Partners’ interest in obtaining California’s GreenPoint Rated certification for Loft House, which it did through the project’s transit-oriented location, car-charging stations, drought-tolerant plants, and efficient irrigation system. Also contributing to its green status are the development’s energy-efficient lighting, windows, and insulation, as well as the natural light admitted through its oversized windows.
The downtown neighborhood hasn’t become a high-density urban core, but it’s transitioning from being a 1960s-style community with suburban sensibilities into something far busier and younger, says Garrett. “The plaza was never used [before], and now there are tons of people to give it a greater sense of community,” she says.
For many, Sunnyvale represents a less–traffic-heavy and less-costly alternative to San Francisco, says Eric Snow, director, development, for Carmel Partners. Rents at Loft House range from $3,320 for 675 square feet to $5,800 for 1,461 square feet. The buildings were fully leased by their completion and are now at about 97% occupancy.
“It’s exactly what Sunnyvale needed,” Snow says. And more is in the pipeline: A short distance from the local train station, more than 100 apartments are being built that will expand the metro’s living options.