Los Gatos Weekly Times
Google leader says mixed-use village will be built
SAN JOSE >> A top executive of Google's parent company Alphabet has made it clear that the tech titan still aims to build a mixed-use neighborhood in downtown San Jose.
Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer with Alphabet, was a featured speaker over the weekend at the first of what's expected to be a series of block parties — known as Creekside Socials — that Google and real estate developer Jamestown are planning to bring people to the area where the search giant's transit village is to be constructed.
Downtown West, as the future neighborhood is known, is slated to rise near the Diridon train station and SAP Center on the western edges of downtown San Jose.
“Here in Downtown West, with input from San Jose residents, businesses and civic leaders, we have created a multi-decade opportunity and development plan,” Porat said at the block party on Saturday. “We did that because we believe in the people who live here, who work here and are committed to being here in San Jose.”
The comments come months after Google said it was reassessing the development timeline for Downtown West, an adjustment the company confirmed to this news organization in February and one that set off speculation the tech giant might back out of the project.
Before the shift, Google had indicated it expected to break ground this year, although it never defined a clear timeline. Google is expected to build extensive infrastructure, including an energy plant, to support the development before the first
buildings are constructed.
The company has not specified a new timeline, but Porat joining other top-level executives at the Saturday event was a clear bid to publicly signal the Google fully intends to build the gamechanging project.
“Google having Ruth Porat at the event shows a high-level commitment to the Downtown West project,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy. “We will see if this changes the narrative on Downtown West.”
Google's transit village — in a formerly industrial area of nondescript buildings — is expected to accommodate up to 7.3 million square feet of offices, 4,000 residential units, 500,000 square feet of retail space that would include shops and restaurants, 300 hotel rooms and 15 acres of open space. Google expects to employ up
to 20,000 of its workers in the new neighborhood.
“We are going to continue to see the development of some really exciting efforts, office development, residential housing, and something I am particularly excited about — acres of public space,” Porat said.
The social event also drew U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the longtime South Bay Democrat whose district includes San Jose.
“The CEO and the executives have promised us that although the development has been slightly delayed, it is not in doubt,” Lofgren
said in a speech at the block party.
Lofgren also announced that the philanthropic arm of Google is awarding a $250,000 grant to People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH, to address the local homelessness crisis.
The just-completed initial Creekside Socials event is just one way Google aims to create lively streetscapes and building uses prior to the official start of the Downtown West development, in Lofgren's view.
“In the meantime, we will have exciting activities in the area that Google has acquired for that development, and this is part of it,” Lofgren said.
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said during a speech that he appreciates Google's efforts to scout for ways to activate the Downtown West area. The mayor noted the city's downtown faces an uphill climb to rebound in the wake of coronaviruslinked business shutdowns imposed by state and local government agencies that largely emptied the downtown of office workers, dining patrons and shoppers.
“We are working very hard to get our downtown to be vibrant again,” Mahan said. “We lost those office workers, but they are slowly coming back. As we come out of the pandemic, people are yearning for community. They want to connect with people face-to-face like we are doing today.”
An estimated 1,300 people RSVP'D for the event, Google executives said Saturday. The company officials estimated about 250 to 300 people were present each hour at the Creekside Socials event.
Mahan believes Google's community-oriented approach to the Downtown West development is what San Jose is seeking from the tech company. “We couldn't ask for a partner that is more innovative, forward-looking, holistic-thinking and community-oriented than Google,” Mahan said.
Details of the pre-development street and building activations weren't immediately available. Porat, however, did point to some specific endeavors in the works.
The tech company is working with area nonprofits, Porat said, including Local Color, Year Up and Good Karma Bikes, which has moved into a building across the street from Diridon Station. Good Karma is already a Google tenant. Local Color helps artists in the region find places and ways to display their crafts.
“We are going to be preserving the historic San Jose Water Company building,” Porat said. “We are working with local artists to bring their work to the site.”