Minkoff gets OK for 125K sf Sunnyvale office project

Project would be first mass-timber building in city’s downtown

Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein and rendering of Civic Center Redwood Walk (Larry Klein for Mayor, The Minkoff Group via Pickard Chilton)
Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein and a rendering of the project from the Civic Center Redwood Walk (Larry Klein for Mayor, The Minkoff Group © Pickard Chilton)

Sunnyvale City Council unanimously approved Minkoff Group’s 125,000-square-foot office project, which would add to the ongoing transformation of the city’s downtown and stand out as the area’s first mass-timber building.

Minkoff got the city’s OK this week to demolish nearly 21,000 square feet of office and retail space in two buildings at the northeast corner of West Olive and South Mathilda avenues and construct the four-story project. The firm has teamed with the 1.3-acre site’s owners, the Hon family and Edward Leone Jr., and architecture firm Pickard Chilton on the development.

This is Minkoff’s second downtown project. The other, a seven-story, 180,000-square-foot office building half a mile north, is under construction and slated for completion in the first quarter of 2023, according to its website.

The firm’s smaller downtown development, called The Joinery, is a block north of the new City Hall, which is slated to open in December, and a block south of CityLine Sunnyvale, a 36-acre mixed-use center taking shape. It’s also a 10-minute walk from Caltrain, helping to explain why the total number of parking spaces, 272, in its underground garage is closer to the city’s minimum requirement of 251 than the maximum of 501.

Sunnyvale’s office market had a 4.1 percent vacancy rate at the end of last quarter, the second-lowest out of 10 Silicon Valley submarkets, Colliers data show. Despite how popular the work-from-anywhere model has become in recent years, that hasn’t stopped local developers Hunter Storm and Harvest Properties from forging ahead with projects in the city. Hunter Storm broke ground in January on two office buildings with ground-floor retail that are part of CityLine and combined contain nearly 600,000 square feet. The company started construction without any signed pre-leases, as did Harvest when it broke ground in the first quarter on a 141,000-square-foot office structure about four miles north.

Minkoff declined a request for comment, so it’s unclear whether it’s prepared to build The Joinery on spec. However, it has already picked Devcon Construction as the general contractor, and it started grading and shoring work on its other downtown development, at 100 Altair Way, less than a year after getting planning approval.

When Minkoff will break ground on The Joinery could depend on the lease-up of its Altair Way development, which is fully available for rent, according to online marketing materials. Regardless of timing, construction would take about 24 months, Sunnyvale principal planner Shaunn Mendrin wrote in an email.

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Wooden structure

Plans for The Joinery direct Devcon to use 20,000 square feet of cubic wood during construction, enough to offset 1,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide compared with traditional building methods. That’s the same amount of energy needed to operate more than 100 homes a year, Minkoff Group’s Daniel Minkoff said during a presentation to the City Council on Aug. 16. The Joinery would be the first mass-timber building downtown and the city’s first developer-built spec project to use that method, in which a wood support structure replaces concrete and steel.

Rendering of Civic Center Redwood Walk entry (The Minkoff Group via Pickard Chilton)

Rendering of the project’s entrance at the intersection of West Olive and South Mathilda avenues (The Minkoff Group © Pickard Chilton)

Almost an equal number of people spoke in favor and against The Joinery during the public comment portion of the Aug. 16 City Council meeting. Those who supported the project praised its design and potential for adding jobs and benefiting other businesses downtown, while many who opposed it expressed concerns about increased vehicle traffic on West Olive Avenue, its southern boundary.

Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein acknowledged shortly before voting on the project that it may lead to an increase in traffic for surrounding residents. Yet those impacts could be mitigated by its transportation demand management program, which hasn’t been finalized; its proximity to public transit; and the “new value” of remote work, he said.

“I’m just overjoyed to see another mass-timber project in the city,” Klein said Aug. 16. “From a sustainability standpoint, this isn’t your standard glass and brick and steel building.”

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