Long-awaited project in San Jose’s Japantown finally gets started

We’ve been watching this wind-swept empty lot and its struggles to rise and honor its historical heritage for many years. Developers have kicked its potential back and forth, abandoning it, trading it to other developers. All this while the rest of Japantown, indeed San Jose, displays development and reuse at a breakneck pace.

So today we have seen the mayor, the development company’s CEO and other VIPs, pose with shovels for photo-ops, while heavy machinery idles nearby to break concrete and create a brand-new, but still very old, section of Japantown.

I’m out of town right now (far out of town actually), but I hope to swing by later this to see if hopes and promises continue to bring change, change for the better and new opportunities for all involved.

Wenzhou restaurant closes

It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the closing of our beloved Wenzhou Fish, Noodles & More:

First-time restaurant owners Max Soloviev and Carol Chen said the difficulty of running the business impacted their family life with their two young daughters much more than they expected, and they decided to re-prioritize.

This in addition to the closing of San Jose Tofu:

Chester Nozaki said the physical work of lugging 40-pound buckets of soybeans into grinders and vats has taken its toll on him and his wife, Amy. The significant investments needed to upgrade equipment and the recent sale of the building solidified the couple’s decision to finally call it quits.


Another building slated for demolition

On the south side of the Nishioka building, we see two buildings, almost in a duplex arrangement. The half on the left (or south) is the new Carisoul BBQ restaurant. It’s not in danger of demolition.

But the vacant building to its right, shown in this photo below, is being processed for removal. I’m not sure how historical it is, but I wonder if folks have some sort of memories about it.

San Jose city permit number SP18-003 for address 657 N 6th St: “Special Use Permit to allow the demolition of a vacant building that is hazardous in the LI Light Industrial Zoning District on .78 gross acre site.”


Old sign for Nishioka Brothers Fish Market and Frank’s Barber Shop in Japantown, San Jose. It’s such an old sign that beneath the lettering, in rust, can be seen: “Dragon Club – Beer and Gameroom”.

San Jose approves Japantown arts center



SAN JOSE — A long-empty lot in San Jose’s Japantown is set to become an arts center in the next few years in a move that the city and local residents hope will help revitalize the area.

The city council on Tuesday approved with no opposition an agreement that will allow the nonprofit organization Silicon Valley Creates to build a cultural and arts community center at the former Japantown Corporation Yard along N. 7th Street between E. Taylor Street and Jackson Street.

“This is a very exciting day for our community,” said Connie Martinez, head of Silicon Valley Creates. “This is a big lift and we are going for it.”

The center, slated to be 55,000 square feet, is expected to house the nonprofit, as well as San Jose Taiko, the New Ballet School, the media nonprofit CreaTV and other groups. It will include rehearsal space and meeting rooms for other arts organizations and community groups. The space is expected to be bordered by housing on two sides and a park.

Martinez hopes the center will ease the pressure local arts organizations face given the high rent costs in Silicon Valley. The organization hopes to file building permits in the next few months, she said, and expects the building to be fully occupied when it opens.

As part of the agreement, San Jose will lease the city-owned land to the nonprofit at just $1 a year for 55 years. Traditionally, the city has subsidized arts projects. The Mexican Heritage Plaza, built with funds from the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency, gets $450,000 a year from the city, for instance. But aside from the below-market lease, the city won’t provide any more financial backing to the Japantown center, and the city is framing the agreement as a new way to support the arts with little financial impact on taxpayers.

“We need to be more resourceful,” Mayor Sam Liccardo told the Mercury News ahead of Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Silicon Valley Creates, which will be responsible for building and running the center, has raised millions of dollars, including $1 million from the Packard Foundation. The group has about $20 million to go, Martinez said, but has a number of funders lined up.

The finalized agreement, which says the nonprofit will do its best to kick off construction by June of next year, comes after years and more than 100 public meetings on what to do with the land.

Once the center of San Jose’s Chinatown, the space eventually fell vacant, with initial plans to build high-rise apartments and shops stymied by funding constraints and local residents worried about overcrowding.

“This is our opportunity to make San Jose the real arts center for the West Coast,” said Roy Hirabayashi, founder of San Jose Taiko.

As a nonprofit, Silicon Valley Creates will be exempt from a number of taxes, but the project is expected to bring in more than $1.5 million in construction taxes and development fees, and create about 100 temporary construction jobs.

“That synergy that will happen with us just being next to each other,” echoed Chad Johnston, head of CreaTV, “I think is going to create something really important.”

Shea buys the “Heinlenville” site

This purchase was hinted at earlier, but I was waiting for confirmation.

Shea Properties, one of California’s top residential builders, has embarked on a joint venture with equity partner Ivanhoe Cambridge, a Montreal-based realty firm, to develop the Japantown complex…

Orange County-based Shea Properties intends to develop 520 apartments, along with 19,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, at the Japantown site.

It looks like the specifications of the development may be different from those spelled out by Related and Williams & Dame. Naturally, we can expect to see Shea’s vision for this complex soon.

“This site is a tremendous opportunity,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a development consultancy. “Japantown is a highly sought-after neighborhood. It’s a very attractive area. A project here would be very successful.”

Well, I’m glad that someone agrees.

Ivanhoe Cambridge

Shea Properties


Creative Arts Center update

I just wanted to share with you some relatively new visualizations of the Creative Arts Center that will be built in San Jose’s Japantown. This presentation was created by the architect firm Ankrom Moisan and presented before San Jose Arts Commission in January 23, 2017. The designs should be considered updates on previous designs, but this should not be considered to be final. I was not privileged to be present for this meeting. Perhaps those who were, can add some information.

My source:



Looks like the view from Seventh Street.


This looks like the view from the park.

Progress report: Cannery Park

We have seen visible progress seeing the large development at 10th and Taylor. Here are some highlights.

I was searching for the area that is supposed to be earmarked for retail. At the corner of 10th and Taylor, on the ground floor, I believe that I found it. However, most apartment complexes reserve such a key location for apartment manager’s office, places for new tenants to be sold on the property, and facilities for the tenants. So I don’t know for sure; I’m just speculating.

On the 10th street side, along the path of busy one-way commuter traffic, it’s good to see them reserving the graceful old trees (California sycamore?); there is also a set of courtyards along the length of the complex on that side, providing small oases of privacy. It will be interesting to see how they go in.

Here’s the Loopnet listing for the retail space.
Note a total size of 5,000 square feet, with a willingness to break up into separate shops of at least 2,000 square feet.
Opening date of September 2017 is listed.