San Jose's Santana Row celebrates 10th anniversary

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Mayor Chuck Reed and other dignitaries are celebrating along with the 70 tenants. It's 42 acres of stores, restaurants and a hotel in a setting designed to feel and look like a Mediterranean village.

In a region known for innovation, Silicon Valley had never seen anything like Santana Row. It immediately resonated with shoppers and with shop owners.

"The fountains and the architecture and the landscaping; it's just gorgeous," Atelier Salon & Studio owner Karie Bennett said.

It was still under construction when Bennett signed up to open an upscale salon. She started with 10 employees in one location and later opened a second studio. She now has 56 employees. She and Santana Row defied the odds, surviving the dot-com bust and the recession.

"You kind of just take the pulse and read the temperature of what's happening and you kind of ride with the tide; I think that's really helped us," Bennett said.

The popular H&M clothing store expanded into a new two-story location today. Santana Row is known for its upscale shops, catering to well-heeled customers. But that doesn't leave others out.

"Unfortunately there's a lot of shops in here I can't afford, which is a majority of them, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the atmosphere and eating the food here because that is affordable," said Kaile Pierre said.

Santana Row has also contributed to the region's economy, generating $24 million in sales taxes for San Jose last year and $40 million in property taxes from the project's beginning. It attracts 30,000 daily visitors, who drop nearly $100 million in food sales.

Santana Row did suffer a dramatic set-back while under construction -- an 11-alarm fire that caused $100 million in damage.

"We were actually across the parking lot watching the thing burn, and it was like, 'Oh my God,'" Eli Thomas For Men owner Jim Thomas said. "They put it back together and opened up, I think, with a three-month delay."

Ten years later, Santana Row is a landmark and a major attraction.

"Our great vision was to create a great living room for San Jose and Silicon Valley," Federal Realty Investment Trust Vice President Jan Sweetnam said. "It's turned in really beyond our wildest expectations in terms of how successful it's been."

The celebration continues this weekend. Many of the Santana Row merchants and restaurants will be donating 10 percent of their sales to a public education and community relations trust fund operated by the San Jose Fire Department.

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