Thursday, February 29, 2024

Urban Putt, a love letter to San Jose's past, present, and future

With anticipation building for over a year, I thought there was no way that Urban Putt could possibly live up to the expectations in my head. I was wrong. Best. Minigolf. Course. Ever.

You walk through a very subtle entrance at 201 S. Seconds St., right next to Scott's Seafood. As soon as you walk in you are immediately transported to another planet. If Urban Putt was a standalone bar, it would already be one of the best ones in San Jose. Specialty drinks include The Winchester Old Fashioned with a smoke bubble, 10th Street Penicillin using local San Jose-made whiskey, Steve's Espresso Martini (pictured below), and a fruity Happy Accident which you wear around your neck and take with you as you golf.

For food, I just sampled a small number of their menu items at the media preview night but have plans to return this weekend for "more thorough research." The Pad Thai pizza was super tasty, as was the street corn salsa and Bavarian Pretzel with locally produced IPA mustard. I'm looking forward to trying their OMG Burger, which is a smash-burger on Texas toast with avocado and a fried egg.

Okay now for the best part. The golf course is incredible. It puts any other course I have ever done to shame in terms of creativity, engineering, and localization. It starts with an homage to Downtown San Jose and then blends innovation with nostalgia. I don't even want to show all the photos so that you get to experience some surprises while you're there. 

Some of the holes are actually races with your party of up to 4 people, including a game of labyrinth. One is a real-life game of Duck Hunt. Another is inside of the Winchester Mystery House. There's a shark, a downed UFO, a replica of the San Jose Electric Light Tower, a submarine, and a finale worthy of Silicon Valley. Some of the holes even have hidden tricks and easter eggs, including some trippy optical illusions and effects with vacuum tubes.

If there was ever a time to run out and support a new local business, this is it. I already have my next two trips lined up. Urban Putt officially opens to the public today at 4pm. After 8pm it will be 21+ only.

This has immediately become my top destination to take people from out of town. What a way to start 2024!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Urban Putt teaser

Tomorrow I'll have a full writeup, but for now here are a few teaser images to prove that Urban Putt is real. The summary is: this is the coolest place to open in Downtown San Jose since the San Pedro Square Market. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Latest news (and video) on Urban Putt - grand opening is later this week!

I know I'm promoting Urban Putt quite a bit, but I truly believe it is one of the most significant new businesses that I can remember in Downtown San Jose. 

Every one of the holes in the indoor golf course is unique, hand-built, and essentially a tribute to San Jose. Yes, they even have a replica electrical light tower inside the building. The level of craftmanship is off the charts.

For a quick preview of several holes, there is a 4 minute video by NBC Bay Area here.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal also has a story up with 13 photos.

Last but not least, the Mercury News has their own article here.

I'll get a chance to preview it first-hand at the media preview tonight. I can't wait and am already planning my second and third visits.

The official grand opening is Thursday, Feb 29th and Urban Putt is located at 201 S. Second St. in the former Camera 12 building. Scott's Seafood is next door.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Urban Vibrancy Institute partners will be hosting more Downtown San Jose block parties in 2024

The 2023 block parties in Downtown San Jose were a lot of fun and highlighted underutilized neighborhoods. Some like Fountain Alley have a number of new restaurants worth checking out.

Now the Urban Vibrancy Institute is partnering with San Jose Live and Tailored By Design to expand its block party series in 2024. There will be a total of six events featuring all of the neighborhoods highlighted in 2023 and two new ones. The original events were in Fountain Alley, SoFA, San Pedro Square, and Little Italy. The new locations are Paseo de San Antonio and City Hall.

The Urban Vibrancy Institute's goal is to make San Jose the safest, cleanest, and most vibrant Downtown. Amen to that.

Specific objectives include increasing: pedestrian traffic to the Downtown core by 20%, awareness of amenities to residents, sales by 25-50% for local retailers and restaurants, and visitors' perception of safety.

Each event last year drew around 1,500 people and sales of highlighted businesses improved 20-35% from the previous week.

The first event of 2024 is tentatively scheduled for April 18th near City Hall.

Source: SVBJ

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The VTA is getting their first batch of new hybrid buses

While metro and rail line extensions are very exciting, they also now cost billions of dollars these days. If you look at the amount of value per dollar in public transit, it is still very tough to beat investing in buses. 

The VTA ordered up 92 "state-of-the-art" hybrid buses that cost $822k each. The buses can operate in all-electric mode for up to 10 miles and improve fuel economy by up to 25% over the old diesel buses they are replacing. Each bus has a 36-passenger seat layout with USB mobile charging ports and wireless stop request buttons.

The first two buses have already arrived and the VTA is now expecting six new buses each week.

Source: San Jose Inside


Saturday, February 24, 2024

New proposal for a Midtown San Jose Hyatt Place

We have some new renders for a six-story Hyatt Place in Midtown, just a few minutes by car or bus to Downtown San Jose. It appears to replace a parking lot and single-story building at 1470 W. San Carlos Street.

The design actually looks really nice for a midrise building. It's nice to see some color being used besides beige and gray. Given it's location and brand, this will likely be a moderately priced option for San Jose visitors.

With the Signia's second tower converting hotel rooms to student housing, we need all the rooms we can get close to Downtown San Jose for conventions and to support major events (Super Bowl, World Cup, etc.). 

Source: Silicon Valley Joe from Skyscraper City

Friday, February 23, 2024

Has Google forgotten about Downtown San Jose?

The short answer is... no.

If Google had no plans to execute on their vision for Downtown West near Diridon, they would have immediately halted all work on their real estate holdings in San Jose. Instead, they are still making small updates and preparations. For example, a former Orchard Supply Hardware at 720 West San Carlos is being bulldozed over the next couple months to make way for future construction.

The eventual goal is to build 7.3 million SQFT of office space, 4,000 residential units, 500k SQFT of retail, 300 hotel rooms, and 15 acres of open space in Downtown West. Google wants to employ as many as 20,000 workers in San Jose.

Source: The Mercury News

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Thousands of homes proposed at site of the former Pleasant Hills Golf Course

There are 114 acres of prime real estate that have been idly sitting around for the past twenty years in East San Jose. The former site of Pleasant Hills Golf Course at the corner of South White Road and Tully Road could become up to 3,991 residences.

Lakeside Community real estate ventures are proposing rezoning and redeveloping the land. They received positive support from the local community for the project, which would provide significant benefits to the local economy in the area.

Given the massive size, hopefully it will be designed as a mixed-use development with a mix of restaurants, retail, and entertainment. However, even if it is pure housing it would help address our supply problems--especially considering that some form of affordable housing is a given in a project this large in San Jose.

Source: The Mercury News

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Downtown San Jose's Urban Putt - Latest Updates

Urban Putt is now scheduled to open February 29th. To get super excited, you must watch the 3 minute video on their old Kickstarter page with a preview of what Urban Putt is planning. This is my most anticipated new San Jose entertainment venue for 2024.

As someone who grew up going to Golfland in San Jose, Milpitas, and Sunnyvale, I was definitely intrigued when I learned about a new miniature golf course coming to the heart of Downtown San Jose. I believe that Urban Putt will be the first in Downtown history.

It will feature courses inspired by the Winchester Mystery House, an interactive version of Downtown San Jose, a Shark that will try to eat your ball, a submarine, a crashed UFO, and all sorts of other unique courses filled with mechanical gizmos. The venue will also serve up craft cocktails and whimsical food. For more info, check out the description below and their website here.

From the Kickstarter page:

This isn't your grandfather's mini-golf. 

This is miniature golf reimagined: an immersive, cutting-edge course, located in the heart of San Jose. Combining high artistry and a serious commitment to fun (and powered by a gaggle of mechanical gizmos), this 18-hole indoor miniature golf course will amaze and entertain. Conceived and built by the same team that created the wildly popular Urban Putt venues in San Francisco and Denver, Urban Putt San Jose is slated to open in late 2023/early 2024.

So what can you expect on the course? A crashed UFO, a submarine inspired by Jules Verne's Nautilus, a hole inspired by the Winchester Mystery House, an interactive version of downtown San Jose, a shark that will try to eat your golf ball, and even an old-school circuit board you putt through. Oh, yeah... and lots of man-made mountains towering over the entire expanse. Built by artists, craftspeople, designers, wood- and metalworkers, theatrical prop masters, programmers, and more, Urban Putt is looking to deliver next-level fun. 

The space itself is, in a word, breathtaking. Urban Putt San Jose is envisioned as an immersive experience, transporting you into a futuristic urban environment, where technology and entertainment collide. Designed by architect Chris Holzwart of holzarchitecture, the 13,000-square-foot site draws you through the front doors and down into a new world. The cylindrical dining room acts as the hub of the operation, with massive swooping openings on all sides that allow visitors to enter the mini-golf course or the private mezzanine viewing deck beyond. The design motif is a study in swoops, radiuses, and circles. Everywhere you look there are walls, fixtures, even the smallest details, that pay homage to the circle, a playful nod to the golf ball itself. Strategically placed portholes in the walls give visual hints to what lies beyond, whether viewed from the majestic front entrance or from the comfort of the mezzanine. Elsewhere, perforated metal walls and dividers (there are those circles again!) appear throughout the space. Overhead, in the main dining/drinking area, a six-foot-diameter polished orb floats overhead, honeycombed with cutouts and gears, to further reinforce the look and feel of the venue, while visually referencing the mechanical wonders that populate the course. Even the bathrooms -- with their glossy penny tile walls -- are showcases that give a nod to the ubiquity of the circle in our design.

And then there are the tables and bar surfaces. On the ground floor and mezzanine, four enormous community tables -- made of two-inch thick clear epoxy with thousands of golf balls embedded in each -- are custom-made conversation pieces. The bar tops and drink rails are similarly sensational and unconventional: slabs of highly polished concrete, smooth to the touch, with subtle curves at the edges and endpoints. It's a design that evokes wonder and joy, and may even leave you wondering, How did they do that? 

Speaking of the bar, our custom-built 40-foot-long bar top is a work of art in its own right, even featuring a "time machine" (non-functional, at least so far; but if anyone can create a working time machine, it would be Urban Putt's mad scientists). With a full slate of creative cocktails, locally sourced beers, and a passel of imaginative mocktails, Urban Putt's bar will be a must-visit in Downtown San Jose as well as a terrific location for post-work happy hours.

Meanwhile, the restaurant, helmed by noted San Jose chef Chad Ferry, will offer everything from out-of-the box shareables (grilled corn topped with Flamin' Hot Cheetos, anyone?) to hand-made pizzas and full sit-down dinners. We are particularly excited by Chef Chad's dessert menu, with Ice Cream Nachos, S'more Sliders, and even a flotilla of floats, some made with stout, for those who like their sweets with an alcoholic zing.

For partygoers, the mezzanine, which can hold 120 patrons, offers a bird's-eye view of the entire course, bar, and dining area. The "Mezz" can be divided into multiple configurations and has its own bathrooms and private bar, making it a premium location for private events, from company team building to birthday parties, bachelor parties, even weddings (Urban Putt founder Steve Fox is a Universal Life officiant who has performed nine weddings and is eager to oversee more of them).

We are in the home stretch right now, and need just a little help to push us over the top. The Kickstarter funds will be used to finish the grand finale hole (a design inspired by the dodecahedron) and the outer space hole. This is getting exciting; we can't wait to show everyone what we've been working on for the last two years.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

ZIPAIR adding more flights from San Jose to Japan

Finally some good news for SJC. After a series of cutbacks from airlines, we have an international expansion. ZIPAIR is planning to add a sixth weekly flight from San Jose International to Tokyo between June 1st and September 30th. 

This means that San Joseans will have a nonstop to Tokyo every single day except for Tuesdays during the peak summer season. This is also ZIPAIR's second expansion as they initially started with three flights per week and then moved to five.

Increases in international flights are significant as international tourists have a larger positive financial impact to the local economy than domestic ones.

Source: SVBJ

Monday, February 19, 2024

Updated SJSU Master Plan

SJSU has recently updated their development master plan and it looks quite impressive. The entire side of the campus closest to City Hall would feature a row of high-rises. The path leading to the Event Center would also be greatly improved and in general the campus would be modernized. Feast your eyes on the designs below.

Source: Silicon Valley Joe from Skyscraper City

Sunday, February 18, 2024

San Jose AI startup raises $72M

Zededa Inc. just announced a $72 million in Series C funding. The company is a cloud-based edge management startup that works with manufacturing, retail, health care, and logistics company. Essentially they bring data closer to where it is needed for faster response times using less bandwidth.

The funds will be used to increase the amount of artificial intelligence and machine learning used in its products.

So far they have raised more than $127 million in funding and are worth about $400 million.

Source: SVBJ

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Lucid is eying a retail and service center in Downtown West

While Lucid already has a retail spot in Valley Fair Mall a few miles away, it looks like they are eying a 92,500 SQFT space in Downtown West at 250 Stockton Avenue. This is the same neighborhood where Google envisions building their largest campus... eventually.

The new Lucid location would likely be primarily for service, maintenance, and repairs for their luxury EV customers. However, it could also have a sales or delivery-center component. Lucid is following the Tesla model of cutting out the middleman and selling directly to consumers without a dealership.

They have had some financial struggles in the past, but have ambitious plans to add two new models a luxury SUV and a lower-cost CUV to compete with the Model Y (now the best selling vehicle globally). 

It's a great location that was supposed to become a 15-story office tower, but given the current market environment a new Lucid shop would be very welcome.

Source: The Mercury News

Friday, February 16, 2024

Lunar New Year Community Day at the San Jose Museum of Art

Tomorrow from 11am-4pm there is one more Lunar New Year event at the SJMA. Welcome the year of the dragon with cultural demonstrations, live performances, and interactive artmaking activities. These include making paper dragons, Chinese stamps, and figurines based on the Vietnamese Tet traditions.

At 11:30am there is a performance by the Korean Culture Center at the Circle of Palms in front of Plaza de Cesar Chavez. Later at 3pm there is a traditional Lion Dance performance (which is amazing).

Admission to this event is completely free and is kid-friendly.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Levi's Stadium to host Six (!) World Cup matches in 2026

Levi's Stadium is going to have an amazing year in 2026. Not only are they hosting Super Bowl 60, but they will be hosting six World Cup games. Five will be group-stage matches and one will be a round of 32 match.

The first group stage match at Levi's is scheduled for June 13 and the round of 32 match will be held on July 1st.

Unfortunately, the US National Team will not start their journey at Levi's. They have two group-stage matches in SoFi Stadium in LA and another at Lumen Field in Seattle. Mexico and Canada will also play their initial group-stage games in their home countries. So that means all of the first five games will involve teams outside of North America. The benefit is the sheer amount of International tourism that will come to the San Jose metro for the game. 

2026 is shaping up to be a great year for sports fans in Silicon Valley!

Source: SVBJ

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Happy Valentine's Day San Jose

Our friends at SJtoday have a great guide to celebrating Valentine's Day locally with everything from unique events, to parties, and dessert specials.

As an added bonus, they have a map of local love stories and there are quite a few in San Jose.

See their Valentine's Day guide here. Hope everyone has a fun time tonight with their special someone! 💗

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Santana Row's two newest restaurants are opening soon

A new Indian and Peruvian-Spanish restaurant are coming to the Row very soon. 

In March, Suspiro (pictured below) will bring upscale Latin fusion to San Jose. The restaurant is owned by the same people as Zazil and El Jardin and will be open for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Suspiro specializes in fresh seasonal seafood and grilled meats. You'll find it at the very end of Santana Row next to Barry's Bootcamp and Meso Modern Mediterranean.

Fitoor will open in late March and will be an modern Indian grill and lounge. It comes from the team that owns Rooh, Anu, and Vikram Bhambri and it will be located in the space formerly occupied by Amber India.

Source: The Mercury News

Monday, February 12, 2024

Updates on Westbanks' Terraine

There are several new updates for a residential project called Terraine as well as a very unique parking structure. The 17-story tower will have 345 units and a verdant nine-story parking garage with 621 parking spaces in Phase 1.  In Phase 2, presumably we'll be in a world that needs cars less and the parking garage will be converted to 232,000 SQFT of offices above a ground-floor podium that has 11,777 SQFT of retail. 

The garage is a brilliant idea to satisfy the parking needs of today while also looking towards a future a decade or two away where most people will use robotaxis to get around.

The residential tower has its amenity deck on the 2nd floor with a pool, gym, and landscaped amphitheater. There are tons of new renders below. If built, this will be the nicest looking parking structure in San Jose.

Source: Scenic_SJC at Skyscraper City