Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Catalyze SV Launch Party

Catalyze SV is on a mission is to "engage community member, developers, and city leaders to envision and create sustainable, equitable, and vibrant places for people in Silicon Valley." This includes advocating for inclusive and diverse communities that feature smart urban designs. The organization was founded in a living room last year and received a $29k grant last month from The Knight Foundation to take things to the next level.

They have already had some early successes with Volar in Santana Row and the Agrihood in Santa Clara. Catalyze SV could have a great impact on future San Jose development, and now is the perfect time to get involved.

Today they are holding a launch party at the historic Arts Mercantile building from 6-8pm featuring several city leaders. For more on the event or to RSVP (free), head over here.

Monday, January 29, 2018

New arts center coming to Japantown

An empty lot in Japantown at 7th Street and E. Taylor Street is now destined to become a 55,000 SQFT arts center. It will become the new home base for several nonprofits including Silicon Valley Creates, for San Jose Taiko, the New Ballet School, and CreaTV. If it looks anything like the render below, it should also be quite stunning.

The goal is to kick off construction by June of 2019 (this is highly dependent on funding), and it won't be the only project in the area. Eventually the arts center is expected to be surrounded by new housing midrises and a park.

Source: The Merc  Hat tip to Vianka Villanueva for sending this in!

Friday, January 26, 2018

SJC is planning a $1 billion Expansion!

San Jose International has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past five years and has finally hit a point where a major expansion is feasible. Three additional gates were recently added, bringing the airport to a total of 31 gates. The new expansion being planned would add at least 9 more at the end of Terminal B, bringing the total to 40 gates or more.

This would mean more flights, destinations, and tax dollars for the city (San Jose owns the airport). While still in the early planning stages, it would be interesting to use some of the new gates as a dedicated international terminal given all of the new overseas routes.

The target cost of the expansion is $1 billion (for context Terminal B was $1.3 billion) and the goal would be to open all of the new gates by 2024.

Source: SVBJ

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

January 2018 Downtown Dimension Highlights

Here are my notes from the latest edition of Downtown Dimension:
  • The Bank of Italy Building, Fairmont Hotel, Riverpark Towers, Towers@Second, and Bella Mia all recently changed ownership.
  • The Pierce earns the Jim Fox Golden Nail Award
  • Office Moves
    • Tech firm Wrike moved into 24,000 SQFT at 70 S. Second St. and expects to grow from 70 to 100 San Jose employees in the next year.
    • Signet has moved 30 employees into 630 S. First St.
    • Voce Communications has moved from Sunnyvale to 75 E. Santa Clara.
    • Critical Mass has moved 65 employees to 75 E. Santa Clara St.
    • Cold Iron is a gaming company that has moved 25 developers into 4 N. Second St., Suite 460.
    • Invoke, P.C. is an intellectual property law firm that has moved from the Peninsula to 84 W. Santa Clara St., Suite 500.
    • Downtown Yoga Shala has moved across the street to 467 S. First St.
  • 3Below Theaters and Movie Lounge is now open and features indie flicks, singalongs, retro movies, ComedySportz, and live performances.
To read the newsletter, click here!

Monday, January 22, 2018

3Below Theaters & Lounge opens its doors with Sondheim on Sondheim

When it comes to musicals and plays, we are fortunate to have the Center for Performing Arts with Broadway San Jose, The San Jose Stage, and the Children's Musical Theater.

Now we are lucky to have another venue to consider!

On Thursday, January 18, 2018, 3Below Theaters & Lounge officially opened its doors to the public as they welcomed patrons to the musical: Sondheim on Sondheim. You can read their press release on The San Jose Blog here.

As we covered about the closing of Camera Cinemas (Part 1 and Part 2) along with options for the Camera 12 Cinemas, it’s been a heartbreak for many of us wondering about the future of these properties. However, a glimmer of hope came alive when it was announced that the property, formerly known as Camera 3, was to be renovated and revitalized!

Exterior of 3Below Theaters & Lounge on January 18, 2018
(Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu)
When we arrived to 3Below, we noticed that the exterior hasn’t changed much aside from the removal of Psycho Donuts and the subtle interludes of blue and white. However, once you enter into the lobby, you can definitely see, feel, and even - ah - smell the new changes including a new snackbar; a remodeled dining area with plenty of tables and chairs; and renovated lobby with new flooring, wall coverings, and lighting. As shown below, I love their chosen wall pattern because it gives the exact feel that 3Below is trying to achieve: “a social spot for stage, screen, music, comedy, family fun, and events.”

Interior Wall Covering of 3Below Theaters & Lounge
(Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu)
Arriving early to take pictures and look around, I was excited when they decided to let people in to see the musical in Theater 3. I found out that I was the first official patron to set foot in Theater 3! As you can see by my panorama, Theater 3 is a multipurpose theater for musicals, plays, movies, operas, cabarets, concerts, and a coveted screening room for Cinequest Film & VR Festival. You can find more about the other two theaters yet to be completely remodeled on their website under Who We Are, including an “intimate 87-seat theater” and another theater which will be the homebase to ComedySportz!

Panorama of Theater 3 at 3Below Theaters & Lounge
(Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu)
Of course, it’s also not everyday that you get to sit in a brand new theater. It doesn’t quite have a new car smell but the room feels and smells so clean with brand new wall coverings and lighting; beautiful new seats; and fortunately, gum, scuff marks, or food on the floor were nowhere to be found!

Seats and interior of Theater 3 at 3Below Theaters & Lounge
(Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu)
As for Sondheim on Sondheim, the musical is a big nod and honor to Stephen Sondheim, a famous American composer and lyricist best known for his work on Company, Follies, West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods. The musical is on a limited engagement until February 4 and you can purchase tickets here.

With movie clips showing interviews of Stephen Sondheim featured on the big screen alongside cast members live on stage singing, dancing, and acting out many of his musical numbers, it was great to appreciate this living legend, or as some call him – “God”, for his work, sense of humor, and personal life.

Cast members on stage look on as Stephen Sondheim is featured on the big screen
(Photograph courtesy of Guggenheim Entertainment)

Under the direction of Guggenheim Entertainment, the cast members performed well. Theresa Anne Swain and Amy Bouchard amused us with their interludes of “The Wedding is Off” and “Bless This Day”, respectively, from the musical Company. Given his work as an opera singer, Stephen Guggenheim nailed “Epiphany” from Sweeney Todd. Jim Ambler amused us with “Franklin Shepard, Inc.” from Merrily We Roll Along. Then we had two deep and emotional numbers from Passion: “Is This What You Call Love?” and “Loving You”; both were performed eloquently by Jeremy Kreamer and Susan Gundunas, respectively. Martin Rojas Dietrich sang a number that many of us can relate to in life called “Being Alive” from Company. And Hayley Lovgren’s performance of “Do I Hear a Waltz?” from Do I Hear a Waltz? made me want to get up out of my seat and dance along to the waltz rhythms. After all the musical numbers were finished, I began to not only appreciate Sondheim’s lesser known works including Road Show (previously Bounce/Wise Guys), Merrily We Roll Along, and Passion, but also appreciate and empathize with his struggles in life including his psychologically abusive mother.

The cast members of Sondheim on Sondheim at 3Below
(Photograph courtesy of Guggenheim Entertainment)

All in all, 3Below has done a great job and I’m excited for their upcoming renovations of the other two theaters and additions to the lobby dining area including their Pix & Pints Cafe for dining options before, during, and after events. We will certainly be coming back and can’t wait to see another musical, play, movie, show, sing-a-long, or ComedySportz! They will win my heart, any day, if they are able to have a classy cabaret show or a jazz concert with some great wine and h'orderves. Great job 3Below Theaters & Lounge!

Sincerely Yours,
John Huân Vu

Sondheim on Sondheim at 3Below Theaters & Lounge
(Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Visit San Jose Serves Up #SanJoseEats

Visit San Jose announces #SanJoseEats, a part of California Restaurant Month. More than 22 restaurants will celebrate #SanJoseEats, from January 15-28, 2018. Participating restaurants will offer a creative twist on their regular menu including: deep discounts, special menus and signature creations. As one of the nation’s most diverse cities, locals and visitors will experience flavors from Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Spain and India. To receive special offers, diners just need to mention #SanJoseEats.

Partake in the celebration by posting on your social media and tagging @visitsanjose_ca and using #VisitSanJose #SanJoseEats.

For more details, check out the press release below from Visit San Jose and this tasty video:

Visit San Jose Launches Dining Program from January 15-28, 2018 as Part of Statewide Restaurant Month

(SAN JOSE, Calif.)—More than 22 restaurants will celebrate #SanJoseEats, from January 15-28, 2018. Participating restaurants will offer a creative twist on their regular menu including: deep discounts, special menus and signature creations. As one of the nation’s most diverse cities, visitors will experience flavors from Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Spain and India. Diners just mention #SanJoseEats to receive special offers.

“#SanJoseEats is an opportunity to explore our area’s vast culinary landscape,” said Visit San Jose CEO, Karolyn Kirchgesler. “Our history is the ‘Valley of the Hearts Delight,’ and our future is innovation. We are thrilled to work with local growers and restaurants to explore where the two intersect.”

#SanJoseEats is part of California Restaurant Month, designated by Visit California. Now in its eighth year, California Restaurant Month drives business for local restaurants and entices out-of-state travelers to visit California.

“California Restaurant Month is a celebration of California’s unparalleled culinary bounty,” said Caroline Beteta, Visit California President & CEO. “Fueled by the state’s vast supply of fresh ingredients, talented chefs and diverse cultural influences, California cuisine is recognized around the globe for being both innovative and delicious.”

In 2016, travelers in California spent $33.9 billion on food and beverage (Source: Dean Runyan Associates), and 38 million domestic visitors participated in fine dining throughout the state. For more information about #SanJoseEats, visit

About Team San Jose
Team San Jose (TSJ) is an innovative partnership unifying the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotels, arts, labor and venues to deliver an exceptional visitor experience. TSJ manages the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, California Theatre, Center for the Performing Arts, City National Civic, Montgomery Theater, Parkside Hall, and South Hall. For more information, visit

About Visit California

Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, spending by travelers totaled $126.3 billion in 2016 in California, generating 1.1 million jobs in the state and $10.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor's Guide, go to For story ideas, media information, downloadable images, video and more, go to

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Wednesday Wishlist: Christmas in the Park 2.0

Every year, Christmas in the Park gives us a glimpse of downtown San Jose's potential to become an all-ages, pedestrian-oriented district. Despite being one of the most transit-oriented areas in the south bay, pedestrian traffic is very low downtown for the 10th largest city in the country. The crowds are also not quite as diverse as one might hope; there's generally the working crowd during the week and the drinking crowd on weekend evenings.

Christmas in the Park changes that. Parents bring their toddlers and dogs out for the night. Couples (or first dates) visit for date night. Locals go out of their way to stroll through the area to participate o the way to other destinations. Overall, it's the best temporary but sustained foot traffic downtown gets (as opposed to, say, a 3 day business convention).

Christmas in the Park

With that said, in my recent years as a downtown resident, I've noticed that the event is very similar from one year to the next. The games, the displays, the food, and the attractions bring nostalgia and character, but don't give a good reason for people to visit every year. Anyone without kids and not ice skating could easily be "done" with Christmas in the Park within 30 minutes, and I'd guess that most of these would just leave downtown afterward.

I'd like to see the event think bigger in future years, and give people reason to come by every year. Below I've outlined some general ideas of what I'd like to see improved in future iterations.

Add new attractions

Christmas in the Park itself focuses on animated exhibits, the (record breaking) community tree displays, and a community stage. Separately, but closely connected to the experience, are Downtown Ice and a carnival games/rides area. This is definitely a good start, and gives three general attractions for guests to explore. But it can be so much more.

Snow in sunny San Jose

We enjoy mild and sunny weather basically year round. Why not set up an area for kids and families to enjoy snow without driving to Tahoe or Yosemite? Other cities have done it at various scales. Ocean Springs in Mississippi creates a "snow day" with simple snow machines. Hong Kong has a portable snow chamber set up in one of its most central locations.  

Snow chamber in Hong Kong
If you tell parents in the Bay that they could bring the kids here to build a mini snow man, I am sure even more families would look forward to the event every year.

More performances

There are some organized performances already, but it could be much more. I'd like to see local dancers, musicians, and other talent take the stage more often, with a bit more marketing around it. I know, for example, that Super Soul Bros would be a huge hit. I would definitely visit more often if I had specific acts to visit. 

Arts & crafts

Kids love making things that they can bring home and hang on their Christmas tree, fireplace, or refrigerator. Why not give them that opportunity? A booth to create your own ornaments, or decorative stockings, would be a big hit. Add a "San Jose" and "Christmas in the Park" logo to each project, and families can now bring back a piece of the city too. 

Grow beyond the park

The event, and the city, has outgrown the current footprint of the event (and the related attractions). What used to be a large scale attraction for the biggest city in Northern California now looks rather cramped, especially considering the potential for growth.

Photo by Steven Davis

Close off more streets to pedestrians, where it makes sense

Currently, eastbound traffic is blocked off on Park Ave up due the carnival area. It reminds me a bit of how the San Jose Jazz Summer Fest looks, except the festival closes off almost the entire stretch of Market St. A three day festival is certainly different from a 1.5 month event, and I don't expect the same scale of street closures. There is room to expand in the immediate area though. Here are some ideas that can make room for food trucks, local artists, additional exhibits, etc.:
  • Block all southbound traffic on Market.
  • Close one lane of the northbound traffic on Market (the Fairmont needs this).
  • Close the westbound traffic on Park Ave also.
With just these changes, the main park area will increase by a lot, maybe up to 50%. That's a lot more room to grow the number of attractions or community areas. It'll also take a cue from other proven successful events like Viva Calle SJ.

Expand to surrounding blocks

The event started at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, but why is it limited to it? It should always be the nucleus for the event, but the surrounding blocks should complement it and guide people towards it.

Plenty of people walk over from the San Pedro Square parking lot. The lamp posts and trees leading from the parking lot to the park should be decorated with lights and color. Maybe a sign showing people the way to the main attractions.

It wouldn't hurt to have the towers and buildings in the area participate with an urban take on Fantasy of Lights as well. Different displays on each building, or even a larger light concept spanning multiple buildings, would make it a joy to walk or drive through downtown in general.

Add marquee displays and conceptual art

Over the past 1.5 years, we've seen that fun, unique art and experiments make people want to visit downtown. In late 2016, we were treated to Musical Swings in the exact same spot that holds Christmas in the Park. Family and children were in the area every day because it was fun, safe, and different. Right now, the Sonic Runway makes the City Hall look like the single coolest spot in San Jose. I see people just sitting around near it, just take in the lights and colors.

Both of these examples are temporary, which just happens to be perfect for the 1.5 months of Christmas in the Park.

Last year, a miniature model of the San Jose light tower was added, which was a good start. Unfortunately, the tower isn't quite iconic enough for most of the population to really care. Along the same lines though, every year there should be at least one *star* display for the event, so people who have another reason to return another year.

It's hard to come up with specific examples, but imagine something on the scale of the Grinchmas tree at Universal Studios, or maybe a lit up reindeer equivalent of the Guadalupe River mastodon. I'd certainly go just to get a picture or two!

Increase local business participation

As Josh has mentioned, Halloween in the Park would also be a great event for the area, and one of the reasons is because local businesses can participate (i.e. urban trick or treating). Christmas in the Park doesn't really get much in the form of active participation from neighboring businesses.

How about getting nearby dessert/coffee/tea shops involved in a scavenger hunt? The shops can just give out a stamp (and get some foot traffic/discovery in the process), and the park can give out a small souvenir if someone can complete it.

Or perhaps one of the nearby businesses can attract a marquee display of their own, and Christmas in the Park helps advertise it? This is also another way for the event to grow beyond its current borders, and to get the rest of downtown involved.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Downtown Food and Drink Options

Nate LeBlanc did a great blog post a few weeks ago about Downtown's rapidly expanding food and drink options. There has never been a better year than 2017 for Downtown coffee lovers with several new boutique options like Academic Coffee, Chromatic Cafe, The Proper Cup and Devout. As for food, Nate highlights Distric, Enoteca La Storia, and Elyse. That last one in particular is outstanding--easily one of the best date-night restaurants Downtown and a worthy successor to House of Siam.

You can read the post over here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Knight Foundation San Jose Grants

The Knight Foundation is giving $1 million to 11 San Jose organizations that are positively contributing to San Jose culture and quality-of-life. Their mission is to "foster informed and engaged communities." San Jose Inside has the full list of recipients:

Gehl Studio, Inc. ($249,600) – Providing public life trainings and capacity building for San Jose's city and civic leaders to help them better advance, design and measure efforts to make the city’s public realm more vibrant and people friendly. Gehl will also produce two San Jose-specific reference handbooks containing guidelines and resources for integrating public life into civic projects and work with the community on a vision document to advance this goal.
National Association of City Transportation Officials ($198,000) – Improving neighborhood life by designing an all ages and all abilities bicycling network across central San Jose and sharing lessons learned with a national audience. The organization will work with the city of San Jose to expedite the process of designing, constructing and maintaining protected bike lane projects with a specific focus on central San Jose. 
California Walks ($150,000) – Creating a safer and more walkable San Jose by supporting the launch of Walk San Jose, the city’s first pedestrian advocacy program. Through the program, the organization will work with city officials and community members to advance initiatives that support walkability, organize events that encourage people to explore San Jose on foot, and act as a convener for citizens, community organizations and civic leaders interested in making the city more pedestrian-friendly.
iCivics, Inc. ($75,000) – Encouraging middle and high school students and their parents to get more involved in local government by developing a customized version of the iCivics educational video game, “Counties Work” focused on Santa Clara County. The game teaches players about local government by challenging them to complete activities such as building public spaces, finding the right department to address their concerns, or managing resources.
Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California ($75,000) – Creating more affordable housing in San Jose by piloting new engagement and outreach tools that will open opportunities for residents to learn about, participate in and lead solution-building and other initiatives.
SJMade, Inc. ($75,000) – Increasing work opportunities for people in underserved communities through the creation of Manufacture San Jose, a program that will deliver educational and hiring support to local manufacturers looking for local talent. Through the program, SFMade will also increase outreach to low-income high school students to educate them about careers in manufacturing and place students in paid “makerships” – positions that encourage innovation and entrepreneurship – with local manufacturers.
SV@Home ($75,000) – Supporting housing-ready communities in Santa Clara County through public education, policy and communication efforts that aim to ensure the success of Measure A, a $950 million bond measure for affordable housing approved by voters in November 2016.
San Jose Taiko ($45,000) – Connecting the city’s diverse residents by launching “Yokkosoi,” a project to promote and preserve the unique neighborhood feel of Japantown by welcoming newcomers and actively promoting their inclusion.
SOMOS Mayfair ($30,000) – Advancing civic engagement by expanding the organization’s efforts to engage residents in creating positive change in their communities through programs that educate people on local systems, connect neighbors, advance leadership development and encourage people to voice their concerns.
YWCA Silicon Valley ($30,000) – Building grassroots women’s leadership capacity in San Jose and Santa Clara County by engaging underrepresented communities, especially young women of color, to shape the priorities and implementation framework of a “Women’s Bill of Rights” ordinance for San Jose.
Catalyze SV ($28,837) – Supporting the launch of a grassroots group aimed at increasing community engagement and support for urban, mixed-use and people-friendly projects across Santa Clara County.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

1 million SQFT San Jose office project moves forward

The next San Jose office megaproject is gearing up at 440 West Julian St. and Automation Parkway. The city just approved a rezoning of the area from industrial to "Transit Employment Center," enabling the project to move forward. The three office buildings would sit between the San Jose Market Center and the Diridon/SAP area ("GoJo" -- where Google is looking for up to 8 million SQFT of space).

Each building would range from 157,000 SQFT to 500,000 SQFT and floorplates would be massive (27,000 to 90,000 SQFT). There would be four levels of underground parking with 2,264 parking spots. The buildings are clearly targeting large tech companies.

I hope this moves forward as it will put even more jobs in our urban core, which means more tax dollars and theoretically shorter commutes versus traditional campuses.

Source: SVBJ

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sondheim on Sondheim @ 3Below

3Below Theaters and Lounge (the newly renovated Camera3 Theaters) is about to host their first premier live Stage Show, "Sondheim on Sondheim." Musical theater geeks will love this show and have the privilege to be one of the first to experience the new auditoriums and lounge.

Tickets are $41-58 and you can learn more about the three-week engagement over here.

3Below Theatres & Lounge to Produce “Sondheim on Sondheim”
as its Premiere Live Stage Show

Jan. 3, 2018 - SAN JOSE, Calif. - Take a stroll into the mind of a master. Hailed as “a funny, affectionate and revealing tribute to musical theater’s greatest living composer and lyricist,” Sondheim on Sondheim is being produced for the first time since 2015 at downtown San Jose’s newest entertainment venue, 3Below Theaters & Lounge, Jan. 18-Feb. 4.

Video footage plays an integral part in this live stage production. Through exclusive interviews, audiences will get an inside look at the personal life and artistic process of the famed composer.

“When we received the video content that will accompany the actors in this production, Shannon and I both watched together and instantly felt like teens at the stage door waiting for an autograph from one’s idol,” said Scott Guggenheim who is co-directing and producing Sondheim on Sondheim with his wife and creative partner, Shannon Guggenheim. “Watching Mr. Sondheim in his living room, seeing his couch, what’s on his walls, his mantle - it really made the ‘theater geek’ inside us rather giddy. We can’t wait to share that kid-in-a-Sondheim-filled-candy-store feeling with our audience.”

Who: Guggenheim Entertainment
What: Sondheim on SondheimWhen: Thursday, Jan. 18 - Sunday, Feb. 4, Thursday-Sunday 7:30 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 2 p.m.Where: 3Below Theaters & Lounge, 288 S. Second Street, San Jose (on the corner of Second and San Carlos)Tickets: $41-$58, 404-7711

Conceived and originally directed by Sondheim’s decade-long collaborator James Lapine, 3Below’s production is produced, directed and choreographed by Scott Evan and Shannon Guggenheim with musical direction by Stephen Guggenheim.

“I originally wanted this show to be titled: An Evening with Stephen Sondheim, but there was a concern that our New York audience would actually think that Sondheim himself would be on stage every night,” said Lapine in his production notes from Mar. 26, 2012. “Of course, with Sondheim on Sondheim, Steve is there, and I know that when you get to the end of the show and your cast sings ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ accompanied by the master himself, you and your audiences will feel as if you have indeed spent an evening with Stephen Sondheim.”

Both beloved and obscure numbers taken directly from the Sondheim songbook supplement the stories told by the stellar cast. Starring Amy Bouchard, Stephen Guggenheim*, Susan Gundunas*, Jeremy Kreamer*, Hayley Lovgren, Jim Ambler*, Martin Rojas Dietrich* and Theresa Swain, Sondheim on Sondheim showcases music from 19 of Sondheim’s shows throughout its 100 minute production.

“At the callbacks for this production, we asked each auditioner to share their favorite Sondheim memory,” said Shannon Guggenheim. “Perhaps the request could have been viewed as a device to weed out those actors not familiar enough with the material to be part of such a challenging new work, but we were pretty sure everyone in the room would be able to recount at least one defining moment when they fell in love with Sondheim. Not only did each person have a crystallized memory of the first time they were exposed to ‘Sunday In The Park With George,’ or when they realized ‘Anyone Can Whistle’ isn’t about whistling at all, but they spoke with great reverence about how this master’s compositions and lyrics have changed their life. They know what a privilege it is to be able to sing Sondheim’s work and share the words and music with audiences equally enamored by the content, or even better, to introduce Sondheim to people unfamiliar with the remarkable anthology of songs we’ll present in this revue.”