Historic Bank of Italy Tower to convert to housing

Original plans for the Bank of Italy Tower in downtown San Jose have switched from small office renovation to housing.

The Bank of Italy Tower from a ground view.

The Bank of Italy tower is continually undergoing renovations.

Photo via Don DeBold

In another push to revitalize downtown San Jose + bring more housing, The Bank of Italy tower may soon be transformed into a residential development.

The historic landmark, located at 12 S. First St., is switching gears from its previous plans of office renovation to apartment units.

Let’s take a look at how this 98-year-old tower may become the newest housing development in downtown.

A black-and-white picture of the Bank of Italy picture taken between 1982-1992.

The Bank of Italy tower hasn’t gone under renovations for nearly 40 years.

Photo via History San José

San Jose’s first skyscraper

Built in 1926, the 13-story tower is Silicon Valley’s oldest skyscraper and was the tallest building between SF + LA until the 1980s.

For most of its life, the tower was occupied by Bank of America (formerly Bank of Italy) — which kept its lease until around 1970. Since then, two banks have shuffled in + out, but the tower has mainly sat dormant in recent years.

When the tower was purchased in 2017, developers Urban Community + Westbank (in partnership with architecture firm Bjorke Ingels) went to work on high-scale renovations to draw tenants back into the office space.

New and improved

Now, instead of offices, the newest proposal envisions residential units on floors 2-12.

Previous plans also proposed an exterior spiral staircase with green features + ground floor retail, but those have been scaled back to make way for the following:

  • Garden + outdoor gathering areas
  • Rooftop restaurant
  • Upgrades to energy systems with the aim to make the tower “net zero
  • Upper + lower floor penthouses

With its proximity to Fountain Alley, the developers hope to loop in local businesses to create a pedestrian-friendly, outdoor social area.
There’s no word yet on a concrete construction timeline, but we’ll keep an eye out for updates.

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