End of an era: San Jose antique shops could disappear
A strip of parcels on West San Carlos Street, known as "Antiques Row," may be demolished to make way for new apartments and an elderly care facility. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

    Walking past the palm trees that line San Carlos Street, it’s hard to miss the string of antique shops that have survived in an area once known as “Antiques Row.”

    These nostalgic shops may become a distant memory after the San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to annex a portion of West San Carlos Street. The decision could pave the way for new housing and the demolition of these and other long-time storefronts.

    “I’m a supporter of building more housing, a supporter especially for senior housing,” District 5 Councilmember Peter Ortiz said prior to the vote. “My only concern is the historical significance of these businesses and storefronts.”

    The council decided to annex a strip of parcels—1183, 1891, 1899 West San Carlos St. and 13 Boston Ave.—into city boundaries. Currently, these parcels are part of Santa Clara County, in the historic neighborhood known as Burbank.

    “Not much has happened in this particular West San Carlos piece of area probably in the last 70 or 80 years,” said Sal Caruso, an architect working on behalf of Oak Glen Ventures LLC, which has proposed the new development. “So it needs some help, needs some freshening up.”

    As part of the annexation, the council unanimously approved “pre-zoning” the property to allow for both commercial and residential uses. Oak Glen Ventures is proposing a new seven-story building with retail space on the first floor, an elderly care facility and 61 units of both affordable and market-rate housing, Caruso told San José Spotlight.

    Many small businesses that occupy these parcels, including a number of antique stores, would be razed. Eduardo Massa, owner of Burbank Antiques at 1893 West San Carlos St., says the proposed development will effectively put him out of work. He can’t afford to move his business to a new location.

    Burbank Antiques owner Eduardo Massa features Asian china. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    “I don’t have anything against the seniors; it’s against the companies who unfortunately (are) running us out of our commercial street,” Massa told San José Spotlight. “I will be forced to move out of here, and I won’t have any place to go, because it’s impossible to afford rents in the San Jose area anymore … This is going to be the end of my business.”

    Craig Trimble, who owns Antiques Colony at 1881 West San Carlos St., agreed that while there is a great need for housing, he is disappointed that it seems to require the displacement of his and other small businesses.

    There used to be more than a dozen antique stores along West San Carlos Street, Massa and Trimble said, but rising rents and a dwindling number of retail spaces have pushed many business owners out. And while new developments often do feature retail space on the first floor, it’s unlikely to be affordable to mom-and-pop store owners, Trimble said.

    Antiques Colony partner Craig Trimble (right) looks at a vase with vendor Ed Castaneda. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

    “I just know that when a new developer brings in these big new buildings, they’re going to need to make some money off of it,” Trimble told San José Spotlight. “They’re not going to rent out to mom and pops like us; they’re going to get a tenant in there that’s going to pay really good retail rents.”

    Ortiz described himself as “an antiquer” who’s collected political memorabilia since he was a child. He said he supports new housing but wants to ensure the small businesses facing displacement have somewhere to go.

    “I’m supportive of development… if the city could help these antique shops all relocate to another area,” Ortiz said.

    Mike Sodergren, a board member of the Preservation Action Council, said during Tuesday’s meeting that new developments should avoid demolishing older buildings.

    “Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity to pursue the goals of an urban village … It’s part of a pattern of missed opportunities,” Sodergren said. “There are existing businesses that are part of those buildings that will no longer have a place to work and provide unique services that are distinctive to San Jose.”

    San Jose Councilmember Dev Davis—whose district will include the parcels once annexed—said she’s happy with the proposed development.

    “I’m pleased that a developer is willing to invest in improvement along the West San Carlos Urban Village,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “Luckily, there are many open commercial spaces available for relocation of the antique shops.”

    Not a big-chain neighborhood

    The developers of the proposed apartment building are open to leasing a retail space to some of the small businesses there now, Caruso said.

    “This is not a neighborhood for big-chain stuff. The better solution is the small owner businesses,” Caruso said. “I don’t represent the owners (of Oak Glen Ventures), but I can certainly say that I know that they’ve said that they’d love for the businesses to come into the new building. So there is an open door to have that occur.”

    Following the annexation vote Tuesday, the council will need to approve the demolition of existing buildings and new construction. And before the demolition and construction are approved by council, the developer must go before the city’s planning commission for a recommendation. Ultimately, the final decision is in the hands of the councilmembers.

    Though there’s still time before the proposed development is fully approved, Massa is emotionally preparing himself for the loss of his business and his livelihood.

    “Unfortunately, it’s not a win-win situation for us,” Massa said. “We are going to be eradicated from this area, and we do not have any place to go … Unfortunately, I’m kind of bitter about it.”

    Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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