SAN JOSE — A dramatic revamp of a historic office tower in downtown San Jose is in the works and would feature rooftop gardens, an exterior staircase, eye-catching ground floor improvements, and a bottom-to-top renovation, plans on file with city officials show.

The Bank of Italy, an iconic office tower in downtown San Jose, is slated to undergo what might be considered its biggest renovation ever under a proposal submitted by the joint venture that now owns the historic landmark.

In 2019, Canada-based Westbank teamed up with Urban Community, which is led by Silicon Valley developer Gary Dillabough, to jointly own and push ahead with six major projects in downtown San Jose that will be renovations such as the Bank of Italy tower or big development projects.

The historic Bank of Italy building appears to be one of the early endeavors for the joint venture and will bring major changes to the tower, according to a historic preservation permit request submitted at San Jose City Hall by Westbank, a renowned company that is one of the world’s largest and most successful development firms.

“New windows, a stair tower, new rooftop terrace, and new facade along Fountain Alley” are among the key components in the renovation, upgrade, and development proposal from the Westbank and Urban Community venture.

Among the key proposals in the filing for the tower at 12 S. First Street:

— A stair tower that would weave its way up the south side of the building next to South First Street and Fountain Alley.

— A roof terrace and garden. A rooftop pool could be built in the future.

— A new facade and entry canopy leading into Fountain Alley off South First Street.

— New exterior lighting and signs.

— Repairs and minor modifications to the ground-floor storefronts along East Santa Clara Street, South First Street, and Fountain Alley.

— A facelift for the existing entry on South 1st Street and a new entrance on East Santa Clara Street.

— Cleaning and maintenance on historic facades as well as any necessary repairs.

— Wide-ranging tenant improvements inside the building. New mezzanine spaces will be developed, according to the project proposal.

Constructed in the mid-1920s, the 13-story Bank of Italy building is deemed to be downtown San Jose’s most iconic office tower.

The Bank of Italy building is an example of Mediterranean Revival Beaux-Arts architecture style. The tower is a San Jose Historic Landmark and is on a National Register of Historic Places.

Westbank’s involvement with the Bank of Italy building as well as several other projects in downtown San Jose could bring far-reaching changes to the urban core of the Bay Area’s largest city.

The company’s website indicates that the developer’s philosophy leans towards significant impacts for a community.

“We are here to create. To provoke. To ignite,” the Westbank website states. “We are the vehicle for a new movement of cultural expression.”



By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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