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Proposal would convert hotel tower to housing for San Jose State University students

Proposal would convert San Jose hotel tower to college dorms
Proposal would convert San Jose hotel tower to college dorms 02:52

SAN JOSE – San Jose State University is potentially exploring the purchase of the south tower of the Signia Hotel in downtown San Jose.

It's a move that would underscore the desperate need for more affordable campus housing as well as the lingering after-effects of the pandemic on the city's tourism and hotel industry.

"The university is always exploring options to increase the availability of housing for its students, staff and faculty," said University Vice President of Administration and Finance Charlie Faas in a statement to KPIX, adding "No transactions have been finalized."

Since opening in 1987, the former Fairmont Hotel was the city's signature luxury hotel in the downtown area.  That was until it shuttered during the pandemic, its former owners filing for bankruptcy on March 5, 2021.

The hotel would open under new ownership and under a new name -- Signia Hotel -- in April of the following year.

But the convention and tourism industry has been slow to recover and occupancy rates have remained below pre-pandemic levels.

"I think more housing is good," said SJSU Sophomore Lucas Robin.

He says he nearly disenrolled from the university this semester because he couldn't get into campus housing and then struggled to find an affordable off-campus option.

"My friend actually had to skip this whole semester because they couldn't get any affordable housing. I got lucky because I have a scholarship and my parents have been saving for awhile," Robin went on to say.

Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, says property owners across Northern California are going to have to be creative to fill vacant office space and hotel rooms in a post-pandemic era.

"I think it's evidence that the pandemic has introduced changes to the economy, to society, to certainly the business sector. And those changes may be permanent, we're still sorting them out. But one of the impacts has been a significant reduction in business travel," Hancock said.

South tower of Signia Hotel in San Jose, which could become housing for students at San Jose State University. CBS

The south tower has 264 rooms. It was a latter-day addition to the hotel's 541-room main building, which is not potentially for sale.

According to the university, there's just 4,300 campus beds and about 150 students on the wait list for campus housing.

"I really do like that we're at least trying to find solutions. Maybe, that might be the best place to put student housing, but at least we're trying to find somewhere," said SJSU transfer student Oscar Toulet.

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