Ralph Borelli, a veteran Bay Area realty executive, believes development in traffic-choked Silicon Valley must include transit villages — communities of homes and businesses built next to mass-transit hubs.
Borelli is following through on this philosophy with the massive Market Park San Jose complex that is emerging next to the future Berryessa BART Station in northeast San Jose.
Office towers, a grocery store, restaurants, shops and thousands of homes are being planned, or have been built, next to the station.
All told, 3,600 residences could emerge as part of the mixed-use village that is beginning to rise at the Berryessa Flea Market site, near the transit hub.
Since 2005, Borelli has been guiding Market Park through the development and marketing process on behalf of the flea market property’s owners, the Bumb family.
This news organization spoke to Borelli on an array of development and economic growth topics. The interview is edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why are transit villages becoming more viable?
A: There is a growing trend for more urban development and walkable communities. Look at the traffic that we are subjected to now. The traffic conditions are horrible and people are tired of it. Having the ability to live in an area where you have services around you, shopping, dining, the ability walk to work or catch mass transit is something people want. People don’t enjoy one- and two-hour commutes each way.
Q: Is the day over for the sprawling suburban office campus, for the most part?
A: A substantial investment has been made in these suburban campuses over the decades. But look at what Google and Adobe are doing in downtown San Jose, look at all the tech companies that are taking space in San Francisco, when historically, they stayed out of there. There is tremendous competition for tech talent and companies believe they must provide the amenities for recruitment, retention, satisfaction of employees.
Q: What will make Market Place a viable transit village?
A: Part of this will feel like Santana Row’s apartments, with 1,000 units that are a combination of single-family detached homes, townhouses and 560 apartment units, along with 37,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Plus, you have a large retail center that should start construction in 2018. You also will have open space, and the Coyote Creek trail, recreational activities and trail connections to the BART station. KB Homes has been selling the houses on the site as fast as they can build them.
Q: Are these kinds of transit villages appealing to millennials?
A: With mixed-use retail, you can have shopping, grocery stores, open spaces, all near what in 2018 will become San Jose’s only BART station for several years, which really will attract millennials. This site is very much evolving into an urban setting.
Q: What’s going on with the office buildings?
A: More tech companies are looking at retail and residential mixed-use development, and if you think about it, Google is doing the same thing in downtown San Jose, with its big project near restaurants, shopping and housing. Market Park will have office space right on the BART station, surrounded by up to 2,600 units of housing. We are looking at four to five office buildings and 1.5 million to 2 million square feet of office space. The amount of office space will depend on how the market responds to our proposed project.
Q: How does the housing increase the viability?
A: All the housing in the project gives us a real critical mass of people living on site, with a blend of for-sale and for-rental units.
Q: What sort of retail are you planning?
A: We have a grocery store, drug store pharmacy, various types of food and services retail, there could be professional services such as dental. Plus the office buildings may have ground-floor retail.
Q: How crucial will it be to be at this particular BART station?
A: We are right on what will be San Jose’s only BART station for several years. When it opens up, people at Berryessa BART will be a one-hour ride to get to San Francisco’s Financial District without changing trains. They will be connected to the East Bay.
Q: You’ve been involved with this project for more than a decade, what are your thoughts now that much more of it is coming to fruition?
A: It’s exciting. The development process requires creativity and planning, and it’s rewarding to see this come about. This is a complex project, with $60 million in infrastructure already expended in the northern half of the project, and over $20 million in mitigation fees for the future interchange at Mabury and Highway 101.
Q: Have you received interest in the office buildings from big employers?
A: We’ve had a few inquiries. But we are really partnering in the marketing effort with the San Jose Office of Economic Development. Our site was part of the bid that was submitted to Amazon for HQ2 along with the offices next to the new Bay 101 Casino.
Q: Is this the future of development?
A: It’s a unique opportunity for any big user looking for a site on a BART Station and also near a lot of housing. There is a lot of competition for tech talent being in a well-located, mixed-use environment, so this kind of project is a recruiting tool.
Ralph Borelli profile
Organization: Borelli Investment Co.
Birthplace: San Jose.
Residence: San Jose.
Education: San Jose State University, B.S. in business with real estate concentration.
Family: Married, three daughters, six grandchildren.
Five things about Ralph Borelli
- At age 19, Borelli joined his father, Nelo, in a real estate brokerage Nelo founded in 1955, and became president of the company in 1977 when the elder Borelli retired.
- Has been an amateur race car driver for 40 years and raced competitively during all three years of the San Jose Grand Prix, a car race on the streets of downtown San Jose. He also is an avid racer of historic race cars.
- Used to sell, at the San Jose Flea Market, worn-out furniture his parents gave him from Borelli’s furnished apartments.
- Has raised more than $1 million over the last seven years hosting the annual Crab CHP’pino Feed for the CHP 11-99 Foundation. Also raised $150,000 over three years for San Jose’s Cancer CAREpoint.
- Works out two to three times weekly with a personal trainer.
Transit village: An alternative to traffic-choked commutes is rising in Silicon Valley