Exclusive Q&A: Insight Realty's Dennis Randall on Creative Office and Why San Jose Needs "More Cowbell"
San Jose is perhaps the hottest place to be in Silicon Valley these days. Bisnow caught up with Insight Realty managing director Dennis Randall (snapped with wife Brooke) to find out what's driving interest in the city, what tenants are looking for in creative office space, the challenges and why the city needs "more cowbell" to make it the great city he believes it will become.
Insight Realty has a couple of major mixed-use projects that could drive a large part of San Jose's downtown transformation. It's leading a JV with King Wah Development and CNE with plans to build Museum Place at 180 Park Ave (shown below). The 270-foot tower would have 210k SF of office space and more than 200 residential units, two stories for a boutique hotel and penthouse residences. At Rail Yard Place, Insight plans to build 240k SF of creative office space and about 475 apartments as well as retail.
Bisnow: San Jose is generating a lot of press right now as the next boom location for Silicon Valley. What do you see driving the interest there?
Dennis Randall: If you think about it, this economic expansion is the first real expansion in Silicon Valley since Highway 87 was completed. This freeway truly connected downtown San Jose with the core of Silicon Valley. Now that commute patterns are all at critical levels, downtown San Jose being at the center of six commute sheds and also being at the hub of light rail, heavy rail and so near a major airport gives downtown San Jose a strategic infrastructural advantage and outstanding energy. Companies are now just doing the math.
Bisnow: What is the area still lacking that projects such as Rail Yard Place (shown in the two photos below), with its creative office space and residences, or the proposed mixed-use tower at 180 Park Ave for downtown, seek to provide?
Dennis Randall: Paris, London and New York weren’t built in a day and neither will San Jose. San Jose needs more of everything to gain its rightful place as a “World Class City.” A funny way to think of this is the old Saturday Night Live skit where Christopher Walken demands Will Ferrell play “more cowbell.” Well, I guess, San Jose needs more cowbell. It needs more: more people, more workers, more customers, more—well—more!
Bisnow: How does all this factor into the future of San Jose?
Dennis Randall: San Jose is going to be a great city. Great cities allow the creativity of citizens to build it up. It really wasn’t that long ago when Manhattan still had small houses and farms on it. The limits of the island caused quick urbanization. San Jose can do much the same and grow to its limits, which I suggest to be Interstate 101 to the north and east, Interstate 280 to the south, and Interstate 880 to the west and north. Within this area should be an expanded downtown. It will need to be this big to accommodate up to one million additional residents and workers.
As an urbanist, I am a huge fan of concepts such as “form zoning,” which is why downtown San Jose is doing so well right now. This zoning essentially says to the citizens and the enterprise sectors: “Let's see what you want to do. Let it rip!” And they have. The faster the City of San Jose expands the downtown and empowers its citizens to do what they do, the faster San Jose will be the next great American city.
Snapped: Museum Place at 180 Park Ave
Bisnow: What are you finding office tenants are looking for in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley in particular? What type of spaces appeal to them?
Dennis Randall: Decision-makers want their employees living closer to work and enjoying a higher quality of life. They want them off the highways and at work, or at home with their families. I’m seeing a significant increase in interest from office users, and their agents, in urban centers throughout the Valley, especially downtown San Jose, because these high-density areas meet their needs.
Bisnow: What are the biggest challenges and opportunities right now for providing those spaces?
Dennis Randall: The biggest challenge is leadership. Leaders from the development community, city planners and elected officials need to arrive at a consensus that the urbanist movement is here to stay.
As to opportunities, there's still time in the Valley to make intelligent decisions on land use and for cooperation from one city to the next, to yield decisions that are for the benefit of all.
Bisnow: What have you looked for with your redevelopment acquisitions (such as 5301 Patrick Henry Dr, 5200 Great America Pkwy or Northpoint Plaza)?
Dennis Randall: We love creative spaces. We want to focus on opportunities that will give our tenants a place to live and work that will enhance their lives. And that is what we have done in each of our properties. We’ve added high ceilings, open collaborative spaces and a focus on design that stimulates the mind.
Bisnow: Anything you're looking forward to in your own life in 2016?
Dennis Randall: Well, I’m very blessed. I’m looking forward to next year, as my children will be attending high school at the same time for this year only. It is a true joy to see them become such wonderful young adults. (That's Dennis above with son, Pearson, 16; wife, Brooke; and daughter, Portia, 13) I know my wife, Brooke, and I would very much like to take a second honeymoon. And I’m very much looking forward to approvals and groundbreakings for Rail Yard Place and Museum Place in 2016 in downtown San Jose.