We had to wait a few months for Google's latest public update on its San Jose campus plans, during which the internet and airwaves were rife with speculation about the future of the company's vast mixed-use village. That's why we were so encouraged by the latest from Google and the project's backers, which confirmed what we at Urban Catalyst knew all along: Google is committed to being in San Jose, believes in the people who live and work here, and has promised elected local and state representatives that the Downtown West project, while slightly delayed, is not in doubt.
To emphasize Google's commitment to San Jose, display how seriously it takes community engagement, and offer an example of how Google plans to activate the city's urban spaces in the future, the company organized a block party attended by hundreds of San Joseans on Sept. 9. Part of Google's "Creekside Socials" event series being done with real estate firm Jamestown, the party spanned a portion of the 80-acre site of the planned Downtown West development and featured food truck vendors, local arts and crafts proprietors, and musicians.
One of the event's featured speakers was Ruth Porat, Google's chief investment officer, who told attendees that the reason the company created a multi-decade "opportunity and development" plan is because "we believe in the people who live here, who work here and are committed to being here in San Jose."
The party marked Google's first public appearance at the Downtown West site since a report, citing anonymous sources, came out in April saying the project was on hold. Google swiftly denied those claims, asserting that the company had not paused work on the project or gutted its Downtown West development team, another claim the April report made.
Fast forward to now, and Google's long-term plan to build a campus big enough to accommodate 20,000 workers and 4,000 homes doesn't seem to have wavered at all, even if the project timeline has been pushed out a little bit. The company's CEO and executives have "promised us that although the development has been slightly delayed, it is not in doubt," U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) said at the block party. Lofgren later announced that Google's philanthropic arm was awarding a $250,000 grant to People Assisting the Homeless, a local nonprofit.
We at Urban Catalyst applaud Google not only for the large gift but for continuing to reaffirm its commitment to San Jose and Downtown West. We never believed the project was in jeopardy; Google had largely completed the development's first demolition phase ahead of initial construction in February, two months before it was reported that the project was on pause. Google may very well have temporarily paused the project's construction after completing that demolition work, as the company is in the midst of consolidating its global office footprint to better align its real estate needs with its hybrid workforce.
Of course, that doesn't mean the project was being mothballed, especially since Google had spent more than $470 million on property near San Jose's Diridon Station and SAP Center as of June 2021. Undertaking that level of real estate expenditure for its Downtown West project is a pretty strong commitment unto itself, and Google, according to the terms of its development agreement with the city, still has over two decades remaining to redevelop that acreage into a mixed-use village that will revitalize San Jose's core and surrounding areas.
The following are links to reports by a handful of local and national publications that summarize what Google shared about Downtown West at last week's block party. Each is worth a read (a subscription may be required):
“Google recommits to build Downtown West transit village in San Jose” (The Real Deal, Sep. 12)
“Google re-emerges at Downtown West site, says it's committed to San Jose” (Silicon Valley Business Journal, Sep. 11)
“Google, local leaders say huge downtown San Jose village will be built” (The Mercury News, Sep. 11)
Like Google, we at Urban Catalyst have remained bullish on Downtown San Jose through thick and thin. I recommend you contact us to find out more about our development portfolio and what we aim to deliver downtown.
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