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


About “Redevelopment”

It was pointed out to me recently that some people are confused by the title of this blog.

Since 1956 San José had a redevelopment agency (RDA), which served as an important component of the affordable housing development landscape in California.

In 2012, San José’s RDA and others throughout the state became casualties of budget-cutting. Now, they are no more. Besides serving in the drive for urban renewal, funding affordable housing, I believe San José’s RDA also was tasked with reviving downtown business areas such as San José’s Japantown.

The redevelopment agency is dead. Nothing we can do about it.

This doesn’t need to stop redevelopment. Low-income people still need affordable housing. Unique areas of the city still need encouragement achieving their potential. But now we can’t simply tap a government fund to make this happen. That makes it more complex, sometimes frustratingly so, but it doesn’t make it less important or more worthwhile.

Empire Seven Studios

As many of you in the San Jose Japantown area know, Juan Carlos Araujo and Jennifer Ahn have built a unique local art gallery on the fringes of Japantown called Empire Seven Studios – so called because they are at the intersection of Empire Street and Seventh Street.

Their murals have enlivened the walls of Japantown for many years. We wouldn’t be the same without them: Santo Market’s mural inspired by Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa? The “Shanghai” building’s looming irezumi dragon?

The building they have occupied and used for a gallery for ten years, is a former meat processing plant; it’s flanked by a motorcycle shop and a tire shop. Very funky and hard-scrabble corner of the city.

Yet it looks like their landlords have sold the property to a developer, to be built up into another apartment or condominium complex. For more information on this, check for PDC16-028.

The good news is that they have an opportunity to acquire one of the old buildings on the 500 block of Sixth Street, an area that is in sore need of revitalizing.

They are looking for a little help. For those who truly love Japantown and want know how they can help, here is the way. Please watch Juan and Jennifer’s video on this page:

Curtains for Empire Seven?

Looking at the City of San Jose Online Permits page, we see that a development is being planned for the area where Empire Seven studios and E.T. Tires are located.

City of San Jose Online Permits
535 N 7th Street

Planned Development Zoning from Heavy Industrial (HI) to R-M(PD) zoning district to allow for the construction of up to 92 multi-family attached units on 1.25 gross acre site.

What could this portend for the future?

Dick’s Market

This is a little removed physically from Japantown per se, but it’s very interesting, and potentially very valuable to local residents.

New plans floated for old-school San Jose motel

This is located on 4th Street, between 880 to the north and Barrett Middle school to the south.

This deserves some research, but the motel renovation may be contingent on the market next door being brought out of mothballs.

If it does become some sort of grocery again, it would bring the surrounding neighborhood out of “Food Desert” status.

It’s also next door to the long-empty Dick’s Market, more recently open as Truong Hung market.’s+supermarket+on+Fourth+Street.-a0425914638