Corp Yard History


Heinlenville, one of six Chinatowns in San Jose, was built in 1887. When an earlier Chinese settlement at the present site of the San Jose Fairmont Hotel was destroyed by a suspicious fire in the 1887, John Heinlen, a local businessman, braved death threats to lease property to the displaced Chinese. This area near today’s Japantown at Taylor and Sixth became known as Heinlenville.

Japantown History

Around 1890, the Japanese came to the Santa Clara Valley because of the abundant farm work. Without an established community of their own, these Issei (first generation) pioneers found refuge in San Jose’s Chinatown (called “Heinlenville” by locals after John Heinlen, the man who built it) located north of the downtown area. As an Asian town center, Chinatown offered familiar lodging, entertainment, restaurants and shops providing comfort and safety from prevailing anti-Asian racism.

Articles about archaeology in Heinlenville/Japantown:

‘The Big Dig’ gives glimpse into life in San Jose Chinatown 100 years

Archaeology of Early Chinese and Japanese San José

Excellent map of historical sites throughout San Jose’s Japantown;
Japanese American Businesses of 1940
Notice that the Corporation Yard was divided by two streets that do not appear on modern maps: Clay and Cleveland.



It’s a long, narrow, triangular property, a real challenge to make the best use out of it.

According to a circa 1940 map (, the California Packing Corporation had a sales office, machine shop, warehouse and lumber storage on this site. Subsequent planning documents list it as “vacant” or “unused”.

Roem Property/Southern Pacific Right of Way

Two addresses are associated with this property:

602 N 7TH ST and 340 E TAYLOR ST

But nobody is there yet to pick up mail.

Although it has been idle for a long time, its development appears to be on a somewhat faster track than the other two properties that we are mostly interested in here. The current owner of the property is the Roem Corporation.

The original plan was called Sakura Village – suggesting cherry blossoms. Its design was the result of a collaboration between Roem and architecture students from California Polytechnical University, sponsored by the Bank of America Low-Income Housing Challenge.

However the name “Sakura Village” doesn’t appear in any city planning documents, nor does its “90 units” signature. It may have been just an exercise.

The name of the new design is Ajisai Gardens. “Ajisai” is Japanese for Hydrangea. It looks like they are trying to appeal to local sensibilities.

Ajisai: “Podium construction”, which I assume means that the car parking will be in the basement. It looks like the plan for Sakura was to have the separate car ports acting as acoustical buffers from the train.

Specs for Ajisai (as near as I can tell):

130 for-sale condominiums with 11,400 sq/ft office/retail.
126 condos and 7,500 sq/ft of office/retail space.

These conflicting figures are from the same source:

Or 103 units, according to the city (memo dated November 6, 2012)!

I am also guessing that the switch in design created a delay in start date.

At any rate, as of August, 2013, they have installed two portable toilets on the site, probably the first structures there for decades. It’s a sign that something is going to begin soon, I think.

Filed under PDA04-076-02 as Ajisai Gardens Apts on 12/16/11, and approved in June of 2012.

According to the Jackson-Taylor Long-Term Revitalization Program the plan is to eliminate the SPRR spur in the future. But that was back in 1987.

About Japantown San Jose

Japantown San Jose (between Jackson and Empire streets and from First Street to Eighth) is one of the last three remaining historical Japantowns in the United States. It has been the object of redevelopment and revitalization plans since 1987.

Some pieces of this overall plan have been accomplished, and shine today in the heart of this unique business district.

Many of these anticipated improvements have been taking time to come to fruition. When they do, the preparations go on behind the scenes while citizens wait for solid evidence that anything is happening at all.

Our intent here, is to track some of these developments. While fans of Japantown wait for these plans to bear fruit, we want to share the changes that are in our future.

Keep in mind, much of what you read here is the result of amateur sleuthing and educated guesses. If you have a correction or information to share – by all means, let me know!