Monday, December 28, 2009

San Jose Public Market Vision

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Maida and Steve Borkenhagen from the San Jose Public Market. Both Mike and Steve actually live, work, and play in downtown San Jose (Steve's family also owns and operates Eulipia). They are both extremely passionate and invested in the future success of Downtown San Jose, and I was honored to receive from them one of the first behind-the-scenes tours of what will soon become the Public Market.

This will just be the first post of many related to the Public Market, as it has become my #1 favorite project in Downtown San Jose that I feel confident will be completed in 2010. When I first heard about this, I thought: what an amazing concept... A ferry building-style market in San Pedro Square? No way it's going to built anytime soon, and if it every does come to fruition it'll be a radical departure from the initial vision. Well folks, I have good news. This is going to happen as originally planned, and the doors are scheduled to open THIS summer. The financing has been acquired, permits have been received, and buildings are being retrofitted and built as we speak.

What I would really like to talk about today, is about the vision for the Public Market. After meeting with Steve and Mike, I didn't get the impression at all that this is going to be a cookie-cutter mini-replica of San Francisco's Ferry Building or Seattle's Pike Place. This is going to be an innovative new concept that both integrates with and enhances the burgeoning San Jose culture. This won't just be a place to buy fresh produce or grab a snack, you will be entertained and immersed in art as well as San Jose history.

I like to categorize things, so I'm going to put the art and entertainment plan for the SJPM into 3 different categories:
1.) Live music and performances. There will be a central stage surrounded by Public Market stores which will feature live entertainment on a daily basis. This aspect is perhaps akin to Park Valencia in Santana Row 
2.) Dynamic art. The first major installation of dynamic art in Downtown San Jose that blew me away was at The 88. Anyone can dial a phone number and completely change the color patterns of the 4-story LED display on the side of a high-rise condo building (FYI the number is 408-287-0128, put in 3 digits then 0 to change the color pattern). The Public Market is going to take this concept of dynamic art to another level with a project should be more dynamic and encompass a larger area.
3.) Spontaneous/Viral Art. This is where it should get really fun. The plan is to make the Public Market a place where every time you visit, you will never know what to expect. This is where the SJ art community can really get involved and come up with some creative ideas. I think the best way to describe this type of viral art is by showing you this video.

Next up in future posts will be information on the retail mix the Public Market is going for as well as some photos comparing what currently exists with the the future plan. Also if you have ideas on what you would like to see in the Public Market, please post them in the comments. Thanks!


  1. I would really like a place like Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park where you can get breakfast type food by ordering at the register and then get your food later. It would also be very nice to have a place that you can get food from other countries. For example, I just went to Menlo Park to get rice to make paella and jamon serrano.

  2. This very good news. As a resident of Axis I will enjoy the proximity of the market. I am especially pleased it will have its own special style and flavor. Can't wait to be a regular patron.

  3. Thanks for all this information Josh. What an exciting project. I love the visual art concepts in the plans and I can't wait to watch the project unfold.

  4. Anon 4:09 read my mind. Yes, a Barrone-like establishment (or even Barrone itslef?) would be great. But what makes that place so nice is that its next door to Kepler's Books. Josh, any plans for a local/indie bookstore?

  5. I'm anonymous 4:09. I would like to have a book store there too but I don't see any local/indie bookstore like Kepler's opening any new stores.

    Entertainment wise, I like what downtown Redwood City does in their plaza. They have 4 or 5 regularly scheduled events during the summer that are either weekly or monthly. They'll have family entertainment on Saturday's and one night of the week is dance. In this particular case, you don't watch dance but you actually dance. Each week will have a different type of dance.

    They should focus on more small types of entertainment as opposed to bigger artists held in other areas of downtown. It should also be regular at least during the summer so that you don't have to plan to see an event, you just go.

  6. Mike, yeah unfortunately we're not in the era of bookstore expansions. Too bad. Would be nice though.

    Also, I seem to recall talk of high-end electronic boutiques along the lines of those in the Ginza District in Tokyo. Joshua, any word?

  7. As for the indie bookstore, I'm on the same boat but unfortunately I think that most bookstores will be going the way of Blockbuster this decade. They'll essentially become antique stores for people like me that like the physical feel of a book and paper.

    There are some talks about having something like an Amazon kiosk where people can purchase books and have them mailed to them or downloaded directly to their Kindle. It's pretty clear to me that e-readers like the Kindle, Nook, and future Apple tablet will take down most bookstores by 2020, so I wouldn't get your hopes up for a bookstore :/

    As for electronics, there are some very exciting concepts being discussed but they are way too early to talk about (plus I don't think I'm allowed to talk about them yet). I can say if they happen, everyone will be EXTREMELY happy.