Housing authority buys north San Jose office building for HQ

SAN JOSE — The Santa Clara County Housing Authority has bought its new headquarters, a north San Jose building where Chinese tech company LeEco once was located before its Silicon Valley operations imploded.
The Housing Authority has bought a building at 3553 N. First St. in San Jose, according to Santa Clara County public documents that were filed on Dec. 16.
“We are excited to plan the move of our headquarters to this new location,” said Katherine Harasz, executive director of the Santa Clara County Housing Authority.
The price was roughly $37.35 million, according to a staff memo prepared by the Housing Authority.
“The building offers us much needed expansion space for staff, parking for our visitors, and is strategically located near public transportation,” Harasz said Thursday in comments she emailed to this news organization.
The just-purchased building was occupied at one point by the Silicon Valley operations of China-based tech firm, LeEco.
LeEco, a formerly high-flying tech and consumer electronics giant that nose-dived in 2017, chopped at least 300 jobs in San Jose and eventually shut the doors of its North First Street offices.
The current purchase price appears to represent a profit for the seller, an affiliate of China-based Han’s Holdings.
In 2017, the affiliate, Han’s San Jose Hospitality, paid $36.2 million for the building. LeEco was still the tenant in the building when Han’s purchased it.
The North First Street Building, located alongside the light rail tracks, totals 86,100 square feet, the county documents show. Brokers Joe Kelly and Jon Mackey of Newmark, a commercial real estate firm, have been marketing the building.
The Housing Authority at one point had been planning to move its head offices to a redevelopment site in downtown San Jose at 675 E. Santa Clara St. The Housing Authority had been planning a mixed-use village of offices, homes, and retail at the downtown site.
Now, the county’s purchase of the offices on North First Street leaves the prospects for the downtown San Jose village development somewhat unclear.
Redevelopment of the downtown San Jose site as a mixed-use village would have cost about $90 million, Housing Authority staffers estimated.
The Housing Authority began to cast about for a new location, including the downtown site after it became clear that the agency’s existing head offices on West Julian Street in San Jose were too cramped.
That lack of space became especially clear because of the Housing Authority’s requirements to meet with clients including people seeking Section 8 housing.
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“The need for social distancing and other restrictions associated with the pandemic has highlighted the fact that our existing facility is inadequate to meet our current and future needs,” a Housing Authority staff memo stated.
The Housing Authority hopes to be in its new north San Jose headquarters by the spring of 2022.
“It stacks up very well from a cost-efficiency standpoint over the risk, expense, and time of new construction,” Harasz said of the north San Jose office building it has bought.

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