Japantown Corporation Yard project moves forward, other projects planned

COMING TO LIFE? — Artist renderings of the development of the former Corporation Yard feature a mix of apartments, retail space, an amphitheatre and a Center for Creative Arts, which will serve as the headquarters for San Jose Taiko. Plans also call for an open space designed to welcome people to the development.

COMING TO LIFE? — Artist renderings of the development of the former Corporation Yard feature a mix of apartments, retail space, an amphitheatre and a Center for Creative Arts, which will serve as the headquarters for San Jose Taiko. Plans also call for an open space designed to welcome people to the development.  image courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architects, Inc.

SAN JOSE — A proposed 600-unit apartment development planned for the city Corporation Yard in San Jose’s Japantown is moving forward. The development is planned for a 5.8-acre property bordered by Sixth and Seventh and Taylor and Jackson streets.

Kathy Sakamoto, executive director of the Japantown Business Association, said that developer Williams & Dame recently announced that it had secured financing for the project. The developer hopes to go through the city council for the purchase of the property by 2014 and expects to break ground at the beginning of 2015.

“It looks good,” said Sakamoto, adding that a representative from Williams & Dame spoke at the August meeting of the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose to announce that the project is on track.

Meetings to Discuss Development’s Future
The Corporation Yard project will next be the focus of a city Planning Commission hearing Wednesday, Sept. 25. Then, the San Jose City Council will discuss the project at an Oct. 22 meeting.

“(Williams & Dame) has to work with the city on rules and regulations,” Sakamoto said.

A series of community meetings will be held about the proposed project in order to obtain input from the public, Sakamoto said.

“We want to make sure we’re up to speed and that we have a working understanding (of the developer’s plans),” she said.

The development is set to include studios, as well as one and two-bedroom apartments. The target demographic ranges from young professionals to seniors.

Plans call for retail space, an amphitheatre and a Center for Creative Arts, which will serve as the headquarters for San Jose Taiko. In addition, the development could offer a temporary space for other arts-related organizations. Plans also call for an open space designed to welcome people to the development.

“Entertainment is an important aspect. San Jose Taiko will have a place to perform,” Sakamoto said, adding that she loves the community amenities. She hopes that the Portland, Ore.-based company’s development will ultimately serve as a haven for the arts.

“We would like to think that we’re building an arts community. The different strands of the fabric will come together,” she said.

She said that the Japantown community leaders anticipate working closely with Williams & Dame on a vision for the development.

“We have had good communication so far. Hopefully it will keep up,” she said, adding that one topic of discussion will likely be whether the development will have more of a Japanese or Chinese feel to it.

While the property sits in modern-day Japantown, it is also the former site of a historic Chinatown called Heinlenville.

Sakamoto said that the Williams & Dame development will be a boon for Japantown businesses.

“If the development has offices, (the employees) can eat at the restaurants in Japantown,” she said.

Sakamoto said that the development will help to keep Japantown as a vital part of the community.

“We need to know that we will have a vital Japantown 50 years from now. Hopefully this will happen in our lifetime.”

Luxury and Affordable Housing Projects Planned
In addition to the Williams & Dame project, other new developments have been proposed for Japantown. A 166-unit luxury apartment development is planned for the site of the old La-Z-Boy warehouse on North 10th Street. The developers announced in August that they had secured financing, and the project is expected to break ground soon. Leasing could begin as early as late 2014 or early 2015.

In addition, First Community Housing aims to build a 75-unit affordable housing complex for seniors at 675 North Sixth Street on a half-acre on the former Corporation Yard parking lot between Fuji Towers and the Nishioka Building.

Kristen Clements, a division manager with the city of San Jose Housing Department, said that if all goes well, First Community Housing hopes to break ground later this year. She said that the goal is to have the apartments completed and ready to lease by late 2015.

Jacky Morales-Ferrand, assistant director of San Jose’s Housing Department, added, “It’s a fabulous project in a great location. There is high demand.”

The five-story building, designed to accommodate low-income seniors, will feature one-bedroom, 600 square-foot units.

Clements said that the units will accommodate seniors who make at or below $25,000 and at or below $51,000. The threshold is subject to change each year.

She added that tenants will annually receive free Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Eco Passes from FCH for unlimited transportation on light rail trains and buses.

Clements said that FCH is currently working to secure financing for the project through a combination of sources, including a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program and a low-income housing tax-credit program. She said that if FCH receives the tax credits, then it can finalize the construction loan.

FCH is also seeking financing from the city and hopes that it will culminate in a closing later this year.

Sakamoto said that FCH is currently performing due diligence on the property. Typical due diligence items include an environmental review of the property, evaluation of building conditions, and copies of all leases.

Clements said that the goal of the development is to provide low-income seniors with housing that is affordable. “The development is designed to ensure that people don’t put too much of their income toward housing costs. It’s important that people have extra money for food and shopping.”

She added, “As the community grows, it’s important that people who make less are integrated.”

Leaders in the Japantown community welcome the possibility of an affordable housing development for seniors. First Community Housing “wants to provide community housing that’s affordable,” Sakamoto said.

Sophie Horiuchi-Forrester, executive director of the Yu-Ai Kai Japanese American Community Senior Service, said that an apartment development for low-income seniors would be a welcome addition to Japantown.

“Affordable senior housing is beneficial to every community, particularly if it is well balanced with appropriate, nearby support services, such as doctors and pharmacies, and an infrastructure, including transportation options, that sup ports it,” Horiuchi-Forrester said.

She added, “A healthy community is one that balances the diverse, current needs of the community and continues to plan for the future. Given the growth projections for our senior population in Santa Clara County, it’s prudent to plan ahead so we are prepared to support both the anticipated number of seniors and meet their most critical needs.”

Sakamoto agreed that Japantown must plan for the future as community members age and as the community grows more diverse.

Comments

  1. I checked with Fred Buzo on this, and he checked with WDA.

    Williams & Dame has NOT yet secured funding for the project. I wish they will soon, however.

    Thank you!

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