Heinlenville’s revival continues!

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Heinlenville is named after Johan “John” Heinlen, a German immigrant who leased land in San Jose as a home for Chinese immigrants, many of whom were escaping a suspicious fire in San Jose’s original Chinatown.

As soon as the Chinese welcomed Japanese immigrants to join them, it became the heart of what we know as San Jose’s Japantown. But, like San Jose’s first Chinatown, it eventually fell to ruin. Instead of arson, this time it was the banks and the city. For many decades, San Jose used the remnants of Heinlenville as a “Corporation Yard”, or a place to maintain city vehicles and other equipment.

Well, long story short, it’s coming back to the Asian-American community in a big way!

On August 24, at 6:30, the city of San Jose hosted a community meeting regarding the Corporation Yard at the Northside Community Center. The purpose of the meeting was to review general plans for the Japantown Project so that zoning can go before the Planning Commission in September, and to Council in early October.

Here are some random tidbits:

  • Matt Brown of WDA, emphasized one core concept: the “First Thirty Feet”, meaning the area from the curb across the sidewalk. This means enrichment of the environment for pedestrians.
  • The development team is envisioning a restaurant of some sort on the corner of Sixth and Jackson, but the actual recruitment of retail businesses is still up in the air.
  • The architectural design is not finalized. Probably this depends largely on decisions from the city planning commission.
  • Ken Kay, the landscape architect confirmed that every effort would be made to save existing trees. He seemed very versed and enthusiastic about Japanese landscaping and including local artists, such as Ken Matsumoto and Roy Hirabayashi in the design.
  • By looking at the plan, it looks like the developers realized that Seventh Street should become the “service” street, reserving Sixth Street for pedestrians.
  • As far as parking, it looks like the volume of underground parking that the developers are planning for, is much less that what many members of the public were hoping for. Not that they are hoping to become residents, but apparently they are concerned that this will spill into the streets and eat up parking that visitors, churchgoers and merchants depend on.

A tour around Heinlenville

I spend enough time gazing at the empty expanse that we once called “The Corp Yard” and wondering what will come of it.

Today, let’s look at the variety of businesses that circle Heinlenville. They have all been struggling on the frontier – so to speak – and yearn to become part of a bona fide cityscape.

First of all, once weeds infested a triangular patch of land on the far edge of an Jose’s Japantown. Now, the complex known as Mio seeks tenants: http://www.liveatmio.com/

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Just across the street, John at @YC (At Your Convenience) waters his plants and prepares for another evening in San Jose’s Japantown.

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Next, on Taylor Street, we have a case of old and new. Taylor Automotive has been on the corner of 7th and Taylor for longer than anyone can remember. The East Taylor Barbershop opened just last year.

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Santo market is our last stop on Taylor before we head south. Who can resist marveling at its wall mural (painted by the artists of Empire Seven Studios), recalling Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa?
Fuji Towers stands gracefully on the corner, rubbing shoulders with a new development that will support even more seniors.

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This block of Seventh Street sometimes seems a hopeless wasteland, and it’s fun to find encouraging signs of life and growth here. The Rehoboth Ethiopian Restaurant is closed, but the interior appears to be set up to be a mainstream lunch counter. What’s going on here?

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Wait! There’s hope! For between Rehoboth and the Prayer Garden Church is a food truck, with this URL on the side: http://www.hbutlersbbq.com. Stay tuned for more info!

Meanwhile, work on building the new Wenzhou Noodle House is proceeding at a furious pace.
We are more than halfway around the square, and I just want to share a couple more new gems with you.

Zonkey has been with us for only four months now, but their cool pop-culture toys and collectibles adds a hip flavor to our tour.

And finally, we know that the former Blockbuster Video store in the Miraido building has been vacant for – well, remember video tapes? Now we have a business that will make you forget video rental chains.

Union Bank was once known as The Bank of Tokyo and they have a long history with the Japanese-American community. I think they will be a good fit.


Possibly the final meeting about the “Corp Yard”

At the JTS Northside Community Center, at 488 N Sixth Street, in San Jose, on Monday, August 24, the San Jose planning division is holding a community meeting about the Corp Yard.

Based on previous conversations with the “stakeholders” (the city, developers, etc.) this may be the community’s LAST CHANCE to offer input into how Heinlenville (“the Corp Yard”) will be developed.