Located approximately 0.5 miles from the offramp fed by the highly traveled 101 freeway, this site is located on the main thoroughfare of Silver Creek Valley Road, which is the main feeder to the vastly developed Silver Creek and Evergreen communities. With over 165 feet of topographic fall, the site struggled to find a use that could mitigate this issue and make it pencil from a financial standpoint. Enter the chameleon of industrial/commercial uses: self-storage.
A San José-based developer, Toenisketter was perfectly set up to carry this project through to completion with their construction arm. Fortunately, they had numerous connections in the area and to the subcontractor market in order to capitalize on this opportunity during a tough time. However, this would be far from a straightforward project and would face its share of hurdles.
Numerous developers and design teams passed on this site due to its extreme topography and odd shape. However, Jordan Architects was up to the challenge. With some 165-plus feet of fall, the task of designing a user-friendly facility was not for the faint of heart. There was a great deal of difficulty and hundreds of hours of coordination between the civil engineer and architect to figure out a solution to the topography.
Anyone who has worked with the City of San José can tell you that it’s no cake walk. Couple that with the height of a pandemic and you have a recipe for delays and extended entitlement timelines. While the design team was able to address any concerns issued by the city, the timeline was still severely impacted by the COVID pandemic and an overwhelmed staff at the City of San José.
Ultimately, the design team was able to work out a feasible ramp system to access the critical loading areas and fire apparatus lanes. The unique layout allowed for drive-up units on upper floors that are accessed via a ramp. However, this proved to be a laborious task in order to accommodate the maximum acceptable fire apparatus grades as well as ADA access to the two buildings.
The solution resulted in the rear of the northernmost building retaining some 20 feet of grade with an additional 15 foot retaining wall farther to the north to accommodate the drive aisle. This concept submerged the lower floors into the hillside, thus utilizing a natural climate-control element and making the third floor of the northern building drive-up accessible. The smaller building on the south end of the subject site houses the highly visible office, which is adorned with decorative drop ceiling elements and high-end lighting fixtures. The topography in this area continues to fall abruptly to the south, thus resulting in an approximately 17-foot stem wall condition on the south end of the smaller building. This wall further magnifies the presence of the project for northbound travelers on Silver Creek Valley Road.
The exterior of the project is clad with a mix of flat and corrugated metal panel broken up by vertical and lateral building articulation. Further adding to the facility’s presence are the large banks of both spandrel and vision glass. Travelers along Silver Creek Valley Road will be presented with faux units behind vision glass at the southeastern corner of the larger building. The height of the building reaches some 43-plus feet above finished floor, standing out from its surroundings with warm colors and capped off with a dark green exaggerated cornice element.
The Silver Creek Self Storage project will be one to remember for the entire design and development team. Despite incredibly difficult site conditions and world events, the team was able to conceive a convenient, user-friendly layout against all odds. This project required intense coordination from the entire team to ensure the grades were carefully looked through and addressed without compromising the function or aesthetics. Throughout the process, the overall look and feel was important to both the client and city, but it was difficult to maintain given the site constraints. However, as with the challenging topography, Jordan Architects provided alternate options and materials in regular client meetings to ensure expectations were met. In the end, the site boasts a contemporary design and massing presence that will continue to attract the attention of passersby for decades to come.
Bruce Jordan, AIA, is the president of Jordan Architects, Inc.