San Jose: Shuttered Camera 12 site could soon have a new purpose
Pedestrians walk past the closed Camera 12 Cinemas in downtown San Jose. File photo.

    More than three years after spinning its last movie, the vacant Camera 12 site in downtown San Jose could soon be transformed into a vibrant office and retail space.

    Urban Catalyst, a San Jose-based real estate equity fund focused on development in opportunity zones, announced this week it has closed on the property at 201 S. 2nd Street and plans to develop it into 65,000 square feet of office space with 20,000 square feet of ground floor retail. The three story building would sit in The Paseo property close to VTA transit lines.

    “This is an exciting time at Urban Catalyst as we move forward with another opportunity zone project in downtown San Jose,” said Urban Catalyst founder Erik Hayden. “We’re looking forward to activating the Paseo De San Antonio pedestrian mall with in-demand office and retail, breathing new life into this critical corner of downtown.”

    However, there doesn’t seem to be plans to revive the historic Camera 12 theater.

    The building’s owners, Gary Dillabough and Don Imwalle, told San José Spotlight in May that there was strong “interest” in bringing back the theater, but their development plans for the space would be largely driven by market demand and neighboring redevelopment at the popular retail corridor.

    The downtown theater has sat in the dark since it closed in 2016. Dillabough and Imwalle said earlier this year their development plans stalled in part because of the building’s incredibly expensive maintenance needs — including corroding pipes and mechanical problems with the escalator.

    Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, said he liked a previous plan from the developers to refurbish the Camera 12 theater with a smaller number of screens and reserved seats. The plan was to provide parking in a city-owned garage across the street, he added. But the proposal didn’t pan out.

    “That deal could never get finalized and with this latest transaction it appears Camera 12 really was the last picture show for this Redevelopment Agency-era building,” Knies told San José Spotlight.  “I have no doubt as downtown density grows, a first-run movieplex will return to the center city.  A location as good as this one on the Paseo will be hard to come by.”

    In coordination with Urban Community, Dillabough’s development company, the project is expected to break ground in 2020 and be completed in early 2021.

    “Working with Urban Catalyst, we plan to make over this underutilized space to better reflect the community and create a positive urban environment,” Dillabough said. “We want to help this area come to life.”

    Also this week, Urban Catalyst submitted plans for two additional sites — the Keystone property and 147 E. Santa Clara Street across from San Jose City Hall.

    A rendering of the Keystone building which is slated to become a 170-room hotel about 200 yards from the planned Google campus. Photo courtesy of Urban Catalyst.

    The firm submitted a site development permit for the Keystone property at 491 W. San Carlos Street, which is slated to become the future home of a Marriott TownePlace Suites. Urban Catalyst purchased the property in July, which sits near the massive new Google development, Adobe’s headquarters, the SAP Arena and Diridon Station — which could become the largest multi-modal transit hub on the West Coast.

    “This is a big step toward adding more hotel solutions to Downtown West where options are currently limited,” Hayden said.

    In partnership with TMH hotels, Urban Catalyst plans to build a new 170-room business hotel, featuring studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens and organized closets from The Container Store. Other amenities will include an outdoor courtyard and BBQ area at podium level, a rooftop deck, an onsite gym, 160 parking stalls, onsite laundry, a dining room and a business center.

    “We are excited to be involved in another project in San Jose and have the chance to be part of all of the excitement of Downtown West,” said Walter Brosch of TMH Hotels, the hotel operator, in a statement. “This TownePlace Suites will help us to offer more complete coverage for the area.”

    Construction on the hotel is expected to start in late 2020.

    A rendering of The Icon, a 28-story retail and housing tower across from San Jose City Hall. Photo courtesy of Urban Catalyst.

    Meanwhile, Urban Catalyst also submitted early plans for its property across from San Jose City Hall, a project dubbed The Icon. The group plans to construct a 28-story mixed-use development to include 20 stories of residential space with more than 300 multi-family units. Plans also include four stories — or 120,000 square feet — of office space, as well as four levels of parking.

    Hayden said the project will create a more connected, transit-oriented community since it’s close to restaurants, businesses, San Jose State, VTA light rail and the future BART station.

    Urban Catalyst, which Forbes named one of the top opportunity zone catalysts in the nation, has a hand in numerous downtown developments, including revitalizing Fountain Alley, the Delmas Senior Living project and co-living projects such as Madera across from the Google development.

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