Two years from now, a group of one-story commercial buildings in downtown San Jose will be replaced by a very tall tower consisting of 23 floors of rental apartments. Those residents will need places to shop for food, clothing and services. It could be the catalyst for a new downtown.
"A project like this will have families and individuals down here, going to our restaurants, going to our other businesses. And that supports the neighborhood businesses," said Mayor Chuck Reed.
Downtown has dozens of empty storefronts. With only 800 people living there, it's pretty quiet at night after office workers go home.
"After 9 p.m. it's like very quiet-like. And it's only on weekends you find something, but after that there's nothing on," said downtown resident Dimple Badiani.
The 315-unit apartment tower called 1 South Market could add 500 residents. San Jose's goal is to have 2,500 downtown residents; leading to revitalization.
"My goal is to make it cool. And that's what every downtown needs and that means we need a lot of residents on the sidewalk to revitalize the streetscape," said City Council member Sam Liccardo.
Essex Property Trust is betting big on San Jose. It already has 35,000 apartment units in other parts of the city.
But this is its first downtown project. It was influenced by a 50% break on taxes, fees and expedited permitting. However, questions remain on whether its rental units will make downtown a livelier place.
"If there isn't something to draw people here, for whatever reason, people don't think to come to downtown San Jose to do things," said downtown worker Mark Gerrior.
And one reason may be the predominance of bars and restaurants that fill up on nights the National Hockey League's Sharks play, but have less appeal to suburban families with children.
"More family friendly, family friendly environments would be good," said San Jose resident Justine Ith.