By Nathan Donato-Weinstein  –  Real Estate Reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal

From a historical perspective, Campbell’s Water Tower Plaza at 300 Orchard City Drive is one of the more important buildings in town: The site itself was used for fruit drying as far back as the 1880s; later, it sprouted a packing house, and became a canning and dehydrating plant in the early 1900s. Its agricultural use continued until 1971.

Since then, however, its various commercial uses have tacked on layer after layer of supposed “improvements”: Clerestories have been covered up, brickwork cladded by stucco, dated decorations adorned.

Now, a couple years after buying the 100,000-square-foot building(it’s actually several buildings, built in different eras) with Rockwood Capital, Four Corners Properties is moving forward with a refresh that aims to restore the past while looking to the future.

The real estate development firm is seeking approvals for an extensive renovation, and I’ve included some of the “current” and “future” images in a slideshow that you can start by clicking on the image in this story.

Four Corners is working with the architecture firm Habitec, and historical architecture consultant Page & Turnbull on the project. The goal is to return some of the industrial look of the past (which is now chic) while adding contemporary flourishes. If it’s successful, the project could be better positioned to attract high-tech tenants. While the building’s current curb appeal is ho-hum, its location is already pretty darn good, sitting across the street from the light rail line and spitting distance from Campbell’s iconic water tower and the city’s downtown, which is absolutely groaning with food and drink options these days.

In its planning application, the applicant states: “Our proposal for The Cannery, currently known as Water Tower Plaza, is not a historical restoration, but rather a contemporary update of this historical resource, with sensitivity to the memorable elements of the past and the future, and attracts new tenants looking for an atmosphere with more character than many modern buildings offer. We believe that a rejuvenation to elevate The City of Campbell’s objectives for the downtown core, and with the direction of today’s economy.”

In a staff report, the city and its own historic consultant is largely positive about the proposal, finding that “proposed alterations are imaginative, reinforce the existing industrial narrative of the site’s past, and should create an exciting and refreshing new look which adds to the vitality of the historic resource.”

Take a look at the slideshow and let us know what you think on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, here is a brief history of the site, courtesy of the state of California’s Department of Parks and Recreation.