Downtown San Jose is waking up to the power some of its oldest — and least appreciated — buildings hold. Case in point: 1 N. First St., built in 1946 as a J.C. Penney department store and closed in 1972. It eventually became the home of Lincoln Law School until that moved in 2015.
San Francisco-based Lift Partners and Westbrook Realty Management purchased the 110,000 square-foot building at the corner of Santa Clara and First streets last August as part of a $33.5 million multi-building deal. In 2015, a different developer wanted to turn the under-leased commercial building into a luxury apartment complex but that idea fizzled.
The new developers shifted the entrance and gave the building a new address, 1 W. Santa Clara St. Today, demolition on the interior is done and the first new tenant — Oakland's Blue Bottle Coffee — is lined up to move onto the street level.
Lift Partners’ Chris Freise said some of the building’s legacy would remain. “Basically the only thing that won’t be new will be all of the great pieces that you want to keep, which are the floors and the old steel and the board-formed concrete on the inside,” he said.
The developer has built a reputation of bringing old buildings back to life. “We think that our project will be positioned nicely to add to the momentum of downtown San Jose,” Freise said.
— Silicon Valley Business Journal reporter Janice Bitters contributed to this report.