Cambrian Park Plaza redevelopment will include more bike amenities, open space

Plans for a massive renovation of the historical Cambrian Park Plaza shopping center are taking a new direction to include public art and more pedestrian and bike friendly amenities.

“It is substantially different from the original proposal,” said Councilmember Pam Foley whose district includes the 17-acre shopping center famous for its carousel display. Foley met with the developer — Weingarten Realty — and city officials last month to discuss the project after months of negotiations leading to changes to the development plan, based on community feedback.

“I think the community will be happy,” she added.

Foley told San José Spotlight that changes will include more open space, incorporating Cambrian Park Plaza’s history into the future development, better bike and pedestrian access and public art pieces, among other adjustments. Based on community feedback, the next iteration of the project should also balance residential density with mixed-use buildings that house residential uses atop retail stores.

The new design will allow passersby a better peek inside the development, coupled with a central promenade and a more cohesive site design which all lend themselves to more of a “main street feel,” Foley said.

The lawmaker had previously voiced concern about residents venturing to Campbell or Los Gatos for the downtown experience and hopes the re-imagined project will keep the community’s dollars in the district. In May, she sent a letter to the developer calling for a more walkable, vibrant and captivating Cambrian Park Plaza with a more “sophisticated” level of integrated uses while featuring its historical carousel, murals and rose beds.

She also suggested the developer explore decreasing the number of townhomes for more open space, increasing the open space footprint from 1.5 acres to 2 or 3 acres with a less secluded park.

The new plans are not yet available, but Foley detailed the negotiations with developers in various posts on her blog. The developers have been cooperative, Foley said, and open to creating a “centered place for all ages to enjoy.”

“I came away from this meeting today feeling that the developer heard loud and clear what we had to say and that they were working to incorporate as many of our requests as possible into their new design plans,” she posted in November following a meeting with the developers.

Weingarten, the developer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Longtime business owners have expressed worries about a lack of retail space in the new design. The developer initially proposed a six-story hotel, town square, park,115,000 square feet of entertainment and retail space, senior assisted living, townhomes and apartments.

De Tagle Jewelers owner Alfonso de Tagle has remained in the plaza for nearly four decades but de Tagle, who is also a member of the Friends of Cambrian Park Plaza group, says he knows his business won’t keep its home once the renovation begins. Already, he says, retail is being squeezed out and replaced by things like workout centers, learning academies, daycare and pet adoption.

When he received word from Foley last month about the new plans, de Tagle says he knew it would at least buy them more time.

“It makes me feel more optimistic in the sense that we’re going to be here a little longer,” he said. “We have no voice for what they do or say at all.”

Foley said she understands the redevelopment and fate of the nostalgic plaza remains a fear for existing tenants.

She added that the developers have not yet re-submitted plans for the plaza to City Hall because they’re penciling out the financial aspects of the plan. “It took them a long time because they had to really be thoughtful,” Foley said. “(They have to decide) does it make financial sense for our investors?”

In order to maintain its “signature project” status, which is a development within an Urban Village area that advances transit-friendly communities, the redesign must include a certain mix of housing, commercial space and employment opportunities. The developers are committed to keeping the signature carousel in the design but it remains unknown exactly how it will be incorporated.

Once the revamped plans are submitted early next year, Foley expects a slew of public community meetings to follow.

Contact Carina Woudenberg at carinaw86@gmail.com or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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