Downtown San Jose blighted blocks may get new life

By GEORGE AVALOS | gavalos@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: November 21, 2017 at 2:19 pm | UPDATED: November 22, 2017 at 10:07 am

by George Avalos / Bay Area News Group  Empty lots in downtown San Jose's North San Pedro Square area. A plan to build several dozen residential units in downtown San Jose might be the vanguard of wide-ranging efforts to transform some blighted blocks, decaying buildings and vacant lots in the city's urban heart into a vibrant new neighborhood.

by George Avalos / Bay Area News Group
Empty lots in downtown San Jose's North San Pedro Square area. A plan to build several dozen residential units in downtown San Jose might be the vanguard of wide-ranging efforts to transform some blighted blocks, decaying buildings and vacant lots in the city's urban heart into a vibrant new neighborhood.

SAN JOSE — A plan to build several dozen residential units in downtown San Jose is part of wide-ranging efforts to transform some blighted blocks, decaying buildings and vacant lots in the city’s urban heart into a vibrant community.

“Ultimately this is going to be a great, brand-new neighborhood in downtown San Jose,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use and planning consultancy. “This area north of San Pedro Square has always been the hole in the doughnut of the downtown.”

The area is bounded by State Route 87 on the west, some freight railroad tracks and Bassett Street on the north, Coleman Avenue and North Market Street on the east and West Saint James Street on the south.

“We are talking about 64 town homes that would be built on two of the parcels in the area,” said Richard Keit, managing director of the government agency that has replaced the defunct San Jose Redevelopment Agency.

George Avalos / Bay Area News Group  An empty lot in the North San Pedro area of downtown San Jose, with a portion of the city skyline visible nearby. A plan to build several dozen residential units in downtown San Jose might be the vanguard of wide-ranging efforts to transform some blighted blocks, decaying buildings and vacant lots in the city's urban heart into a vibrant new neighborhood.

George Avalos / Bay Area News Group
An empty lot in the North San Pedro area of downtown San Jose, with a portion of the city skyline visible nearby. A plan to build several dozen residential units in downtown San Jose might be the vanguard of wide-ranging efforts to transform some blighted blocks, decaying buildings and vacant lots in the city's urban heart into a vibrant new neighborhood.

The parcels are known in city parlance as blocks A and C in the North San Pedro development area, which primarily consists of bulldozed lots and some old buildings. Keit said the San Jose government agency has struck a deal to sell the properties to an affiliate of Trumark Communities.

Plans call for development of 43 town houses on Block A near the corner of North San Pedro and West Julian streets next to Coleman Avenue and for construction of 21 town houses on Block C near the corner of West Julian and Terraine streets.

But these two sites are only part of what could be a major effort to bring hundreds of homes to an area that is about a five-minute drive and a 20-minute walk from the Diridon Station. That transportation complex is slated to become a major hub for an array of transit lines, including BART, high-speed rail, light rail, Catrain, Amtrak and the ACE Train, along with buses.

George Avalos / Bay Area News Group  Evening commuters drive past vacant lots in downtown San Jose's North San Pedro district.

George Avalos / Bay Area News Group
Evening commuters drive past vacant lots in downtown San Jose's North San Pedro district.

The North San Pedro neighborhood also would be close to a proposed Google transit village, which the search giant intends to develop near Diridon Station and the SAP Center entertainment complex. Google is eyeing 6 million to 8 million square feet of offices that could accommodate 15,000 to 20,000 of its employees.

“The idea is to build at least 1,500 residential units in the north San Pedro Square area,” Staedler said. “These projects would completely transform a blighted, infested, toxic part of downtown San Jose.”

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Among the projects, according to Staedler: KT Urban wants to build 304 units as the primary components of an 18-story residential tower that also would contain 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail on Bassett Street; Z&L Properties intends to develop 305 residential units near the corner of West Julian and Terraine streets, and 380 to 400 residential units north of Bassett Street. Also in the works are two more residential towers that could each have 315 units, Staedler said. And plans have been submitted for even more residences at 255 W. Julian St.

“All of this is very exciting,” Staedler said. “Development here is a great addition to the downtown that we’ve been planning since 2003.”