When last seen, Urban Catalyst founder Erik Hayden was behind the wheel of a big orange excavator, breaking ground for the home of the future Gifford Place. Today, we catch up with him back in the office to get a view from the ground of what’s happening in downtown San Jose.
Q: What do you see that’s different these days in San Jose?
A: At the moment the most interesting thing might not be in San Jose itself but on the roads going in and out of the city. The traffic is back. Workers are commuting again. They’re coming back to the office.
And there’s something else: when the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship in June, the atmosphere here was electric. The sidewalks were overflowing with people of all ages out celebrating. That level of street life is something new and it’s a good indicator for what we’re building.
Q: Speaking of building, how is Fund II coming along?
A: We passed the $100 million fundraising mark earlier this year, and we hit that 40% faster than we did with Fund I. That speaks to the opportunity investors are seeing in downtown San Jose. The city is excited about our flagship Fund II project, Icon/Echo and we are full speed ahead with the planning and approval process.
Q: What’s the key to getting people downtown?
A: Creating a livable city is part art, part science. You need to have compelling work opportunities and attractive places to live. Access to public transportation is important. But more than that, you have to build a place that’s sustainable and where people want to gather.
Retail activation is a great indicator for where a city is going. It signals excitement. You see this in the energy that’s building in downtown San Jose. You see it in the demand for housing and in the kinds of restaurants and entertainment venues that are signing up for our spaces in buildings like Paseo. There’s great momentum here.
Q: Anything else to add?
A: As an investor, you want to put your money in places that you believe have great growth opportunities and that are demonstrating positive momentum. You don’t have to look hard to see that San Jose is one of those places. Whether it’s U.S. News ranking San Jose #5 in its list of best cities to live or the crowds that flooded the streets following the Warriors’ game six victory, you can see this is a place on the rise. It’s an exciting time to be here.
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