ThinkBiggerSanJose has moved!

Thanks for all the support, please join me at my new blog thinkbiggersanjose.com. All the same content but with a new look. You can always find me on Twitter @ThinkBiggerSJ. Thanks again and see you on the new site.

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Centerra to break ground by summer

The Simeon Properties announced today that the Centerra Tower across the street from the San Pedro Square Market will be breaking ground before summer.

Artist's rendering of Centerra

The 21 story tower will have 347 leasable units, mostly 1 or 2 bedrooms with the average size of 935sf. The 4th floor podium level will have a pool, gym, bbq common area, and a pet park. The architects designed the residential units in a way to completely cover the 4 floors of above ground parking, so that they are not seen from the street. Along with the residential units, will be 7000 sf of retail space on the ground floor, along with a large bicycle storage area and an adjoining bike repair area. The newest renderings show improvement over the previous Carlysle Tower and should be competitive to 1 S. Market. Both towers will be breaking ground in the next few months, so it will be interesting to see the two go head to head for tenants. Simeon says the project will take two years for completion. Will update with new renderings as soon as they become available.

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A history of downtown San Jose by SPUR

As a new partner in the downtown San Jose community, SPUR has begun to use the experience of urban involvement in San Francisco and apply these principles to the future growth and planning in downtown. In a recent report, SPUR created a shortened history of how downtown has evolved to this point. Check it out here

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The Diridon Station Plan- San Jose’s transit oriented project

With the recent news of the City of San Jose promising that the Diridon Station Plan will move on with or without the A’s moving to San Jose, comes the opportunity for San Jose’s best transit oriented real estate ever. As highly touted as the North 1st corridor is for North San Jose with VTA light rail, the Diridon area will become THE destination for transit seekers.

But why has it taken so long for San Jose to follow the majority of cities along the peninsula like Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, Mountain View and Redwood City who have already built transit oriented destinations around CalTrain? In most cases riders can easily step off the train and be within a five minute walk of their home, business, or restaurants. Yet San Jose’s Diridon Station, the largest transit hub south of San Francisco, is has only been in recent years that mixed use residential units have been popping up around the station, which is mostly surrounded by parking lots. Parking lots, a common problem in the downtown area, since the 1960′s and this has created scars in the urban landscape and the Diridon Station area is just another example. It also lacks that 5 minute walk appeal. The Shark Tank is really the only destination near Diridon that doesn’t require a rider to walk under a train track or a highway and that needs to change.

That’s where the Diridon Station Plan comes in. It projects bringing in upwards of 27,000 new people to the three mile planned area around Diridon Station. These numbers include 20,000 workers and nearly 5,500 new residents. The projections would mean unprecedented density growth for the greater downtown area. It could also add an unprecedented amount of new transit ridership for both CalTrain and VTA and a large base of people to draw on for HSR when it is completed.

All of this is great news for an improving urban core, and for drawing the elusive young talent that has been migrating to San Fransisco for an urban lifestyle. This plan almost doubles the size of downtown by adding 5 million sf of commercial/business space, and upwards of 2600 residential units along with a planned 420,000 sf of retail. Though limited by building heights, the density of this area would fill in a large gap and act as a true gateway to downtown from Diridon Station. It remains to be seen this plan will live up to its potential, but the city’s promise to proceed with or without the A’s is a significant statement that the plan will be manifested in some manner soon. Hey, maybe the good faith of the city will be the final confirmation to the A’s and MLB to get the move to come to fruition.

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Year round snow baording in San Jose

Flyer for San Jose Snow

Calling all snowboarders! If you liked to snowboard and you live in San Jose, you need to go over to SJsnow.com or visit them on Facebook. They are looking for signatures to get the City of San Jose’s attention in building a year round snow park at Lake Cunningham Park. This exclusive snow park will draw a ton of interest and money from snowboarders from all over the Bay Area into the city 365 days a year. The park could even hold large competitions similar to the one in SF called Urban Snowboard Showdown. In any case, San Jose needs to add another reason for people to come to the city and this is a perfect way. So sign the petition if you agree with it.

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A call to San Jose’s creative culture: Help design a new urbanism

In recent months the topic of San Jose becoming the future South Bay urban center has been covered in numerous articles. From Councilman Sam Liccardo to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, the focus is on the potential San Jose holds in its boundaries. This blog has been focusing on this idea for two years now, and as the recession ends the realization that San Jose could be an urban center is coming into view. San Jose currently has the highest housing occupancy rate in the nation at 96%, and is top 5 in the country for economic recovery since 2008. Commercial and residential construction is booming in North San Jose and soon two residential towers will break ground in downtown.
But even as the next two towers began construction, the overarching view of developers looking at San Jose’s urban core is that there are more negatives than positives for building in downtown. The first issue that comes up is the flight path of SJC NBC Bay Area. The second is that the area cannot support more residential units. Two facts deny this allegation. 4% un-occupancy, and the 360 residences. The 360s were initially slated as condos, but after the developer foreclosed on the property, the new owner switched to leasing the units and the building is nearly leased out. As the stories above indicate, Silicon Valley techies are looking for urban centers to live in, and so developers need to start building now in order to fill the growing needs of the people moving here for the jobs.
But since San Jose is at a unique “ground zero’ of sorts, the city’s potential can be seen as another benefit to those who are moving here. Most people come to San Jose for the valuable jobs it offers, but what if the city was branded as a place to come where the citizen can participate in designing the future? This was the idea behind starting thinkbiggersanjose two years ago. San Jose stands as a relatively undefined suburban mass, but what if it could be marketed as the next great creative project? What if the creative culture that San Jose has harvested in the last decade could go beyond being a culture, and become the defining aspect of the city? What if instead of creating a new technology or social network, San Jose became a breeding ground for new building and urban planning?
This need for new approaches in building and urban planning ideas is bred out of necessity, the necessity to work within the parameters of the airport flight path. So how can different approaches be made in developing in a height restrictive area? How can developers build better buildings that are functional by maximizing square footage, but not simply being a square box? How might the creative artisans that may have “outside the box” ideas be better included in the design process? One simple answer would be to hold design contests for undeveloped pieces of land. This would allow local artist a chance to show their takes on areas within their city, that could then be included in future developments. Another is through the work of non-profit organizations like SPUR and 1stAct. These groups that have the ability to influence city planners and developers to listen to arguments for better urban design. It is through groups that allow collaboration of different vocations, that challenges to traditional approaches in urban and building design are created.
“Ground zero” for San Jose is now. The talk of urban growth is gaining momentum and may be at an all time high, the creative culture is needed now more than ever, make your voice heard, it counts!

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Changes to 1 S. Market building design

Last week the Silicon valley Business Journal released a new rendering of the proposed tower for 1 S. Market St.

New rendering of 1 S. Market St

Up until that rendering was released the building was purported to be a multidimensional tower that progressively grew smaller in the higher floors.

1 S. Market St original rendering

But this current rendering shows a 21 story box that lacks any design or character to it at all. In fact it comes across as a half-hearted effort from KT Properties, the same developer that built the Axis. But today the Downtown Design Committee (DDC)- a small group of individuals made up of architects, neighborhood association leaders, and other interested parties hoping to bring better design to downtown San Jose- had a discussion with the developers voicing their concerns over this newest proposal. For one it is much shorter than the available height for the property, a mere 216ft versus the limit of well over 300ft almost 325ft. Secondly, it stands on a major intersection in downtown and doesn’t add anything to area around it. Third, it lacks grandeur and status. Nothing about this rendering leaves me wanting to see it completed. There is no excitement and the feeling around the community surrounding this rendering is unitedly against it. So I decided to create a petition for anyone who wants to have their voice heard, please sign it. It sends emails directly to KT Properties, the San Jose City planning department, and Sam Liccardo. Please sign and pass it along for others to sign:
Change.org Petition

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