UPDATE: San Jose annexes Cambrian Park Plaza for redevelopment
The Cambrian Park Plaza is seen on Sept. 1, 2022. The sprawling San Jose shopping center is planned to be redeveloped as a hub of housing, hotel rooms and park space. Photo by Joseph Geha.

Major plans for revamping the iconic Cambrian Park Plaza in San Jose are one step closer to fruition.

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council unanimously voted to annex a nearly 20-acre parcel of Santa Clara County land that encompasses the plaza into the city. The procedural step will advance long-brewing plans to transform the sprawling 1950s-era shopping center, endemic to suburban car culture, into a walkable hub of housing, retail, hotel rooms and park space known as Cambrian Village.

“This is an underutilized piece of property that sorely needs revamping,” District 9 Councilmember Pam Foley, who represents the area, told San José Spotlight.

Cambrian Village fits into San Jose’s efforts to revitalize certain swaths of the city with “urban villages,” mixed-use developments that include both housing and commercial spaces. The project will help set the “personality, feel and density” of the area and serve as an anchor for future development, Cheryl Wessling, a spokesperson for the city’s planning department, told San José Spotlight.

In a unanimous vote last month, the city council approved both the environmental impact report for the project and the pre-zoning of the land in anticipation of the development.

With the annexation approval, the next step is for a Santa Clara County commission to certify the change before the development can be considered for final approval at a planning director’s hearing, Laura Meiners, a supervising planner with the city, told San José Spotlight. The director’s hearing could take place as soon as October or November.

“It is good to see the city doing economic development and annexing parts of unincorporated (areas) that it can bring into the economic fold of the city,” Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, said at the meeting. “It’s going to be a very lively part of our city that people both in the neighborhood and from other parts of town will come to visit, enjoy, spend money, recreate, eat.”

The project, proposed by Kimco Realty, calls for demolishing the entire commercial center—about 170,000 square feet—to make way for 305 apartments, a 229-room hotel, a 110-bed assisted living facility for seniors, as well as 50 senior independent living residences. The well-known carousel sign that marks the plaza will be retained and placed along Union Avenue.

The apartment building will be mixed-use. It will include roughly 51,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space on the ground floor. The hotel building also will have about 4,600 square feet of commercial space. Most of the parking will be underground.

The iconic carousel sign will be placed on Union Avenue between apartments and a senior residence. Rendering courtesy of the Cambrian Village Development Team.

The project will also include 48 single-family homes that will have 27 accessory dwelling units, or granny units, as well as 25 townhomes, according to city reports.

The developer will reserve 50 apartments as below market-rate, to be rented at rates affordable to people earning up to the area median income, which for a couple in Santa Clara County is about $134,000 annually.

Four acres will be set aside as public open space, and Foley and other councilmembers asked the developer to ensure events that take place at the plaza currently, like farmers markets and short-term Christmas tree farms, are able to continue to use those spaces after the project is complete.

The developer will also be required to offer relocation assistance to any businesses leasing at the shopping center that have been there since 2015 or earlier and offer them a space when the new development is complete.

Foley said the project will be a big benefit for the area, though she acknowledged some drawbacks. Not all businesses may survive the redevelopment, and the project has been criticized by some for being too dense for the area, which is dominated by single-family homes.

“Change is really difficult, but I really look forward to having this Cambrian Village developed and opened so that our families can really have a place in our area that is a place they can walk to and meet friends,” she said. “They don’t have to get in their cars and drive down to the Pruneyard, or to Los Gatos or Willow Glen.”

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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