As the demand for office space fills up nearly every available location in downtown Mountain View, residential developer Classic Communities has sidelined its 65-home project on Evelyn Avenue in favor of office buildings.
According to a request submitted to the city planning department Friday, Classic Communities has proposed three, five-story Class A office buildings with a total of approximately 465,000 square feet and three levels of underground parking. But just five months ago the City Council gave Classic Communities the green light for 25 town homes and 40 detached homes for the 4.3-acre site, which is near Calderon Avenue at 209-405 Evelyn Avenue.
The reason for the proposal is clear: downtown Mountain View is fast becoming "start-up central," said Mike Cobb, senior vice president of real estate firm Colliers International. Cobb speculated that Classic Communities, which is owned by high-end commercial builder Mozart Development Company, saw the property's "value as a long term hold" as an office building "rather than build it and sell it" housing.
"I think Mountain View has taken a permanent spot on the list of the real key locations in the area" for office space, Cobb said. Small tech firms looking at downtown Mountain View are "attracted by restaurants, transportation and the theater. It's just a good place to do business."
The office vacancy rate in downtown Mountain View shrank to 3.7 percent in April from over 7 percent the same time last year, the lowest since the dot.com boom.
"I'm pretty sure when the quarter ends we're going to see an office vacancy right around 3 percent," Cobb said. "That's extraordinarily low. Palo Alto is at 2.6 percent. There aren't other parts of the Bay Area that have similarly strong occupancy rates right now."
Planning Director Randy Tsuda said the City Council is tentatively set to consider a "gatekeeper request" June 28 that may allow Classic Communities to push the office building proposal through the city's planning pipeline. The residential zoning for the site would have to be changed.
Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association committee member David Lewis criticized the proposal in an email, saying that it would be an example of "spot zoning" if the council gave Classic Communities the zoning change without considering the move as part of the city's general plan update, which would study such impacts as increasing the city's jobs-housing imbalance.
Scott Ward of Classic Communities did not respond to a request for comment.