While building big on Silicon Valley's expensive land was the way to make money during boom years, Planning Director Randy Tsuda said the Mountain View side of the project now has only 253 units under plans submitted this week by Summit Land Partners. That's down from 436 homes approved by the City Council in 2008.
Town homes and condo buildings will be limited to three stories instead of five. Parking garages have vanished from the design for the 27-acre site.
Summit principal Tim Unger said the changes reflect a trend in real estate development, where large podium-style condo buildings atop parking garages are seen as too much of an investment.
"No builders want to build a podium project, it is too capital intensive, too expensive," Unger said. "One of the things builders are trying to do now is manage our resources more effectively."
With a larger building, "you can't phase it. It is a big, massive investment," he said.
Detailed drawings are expected in October, but Tsuda said the development application shows the project's three-, four- and five-story podium condo buildings replaced with a combination of town homes and stacked flat-style condos three stories in height. The townhouses and single family homes in the previously approved design are expected to remain, including 45 on a portion of the site in Palo Alto.
The new plan was welcomed by the Monta Loma Neighborhood Association, which has struggled with the project for half a decade.
"What we are seeing from the new plan so far seems to be a better fit to the neighborhood than previous plans," said MLNA president Wouter Suverkropp. "One would think that having 150 fewer housing units would reduce the traffic considerably. We would be very happy about that."
Suverkropp said neighbors were also pleased to see that major concessions they had fought for remained in the project, namely two medium-sized parks, numerous tree plantings and a pedestrian tunnel under Central Expressway to San Antonio train station. Unger confirmed that the tunnel remains in the plan and that the parks would remain at their approved size.
Unger said the unit count remains "in flux" but confirmed that the use of three-story townhouses and condos would reduce unit count to 250 to 260 units.
Summit Land Partners and builder William Lyon Homes entered into an agreement with landowner Hewlett Packard last year. Citing expensive city requirements, a high land price and a souring housing market, developer Toll Brothers decided not to buy the property shortly after completing the design and getting council approval for the 436-unit project.
Vacant buildings that were once home to the Mayfield Mall, the area's first indoor shopping mall, will be demolished as part of the project.