Creative Center for the Arts Takes Shape in San Jose

Silicon Valley, Apple, Google, Oracle, Intel, City of San Jose, Silicon Valley Creates, Creative Center for the Arts, Japantown Square, Nova Partners, Ankrom Moisan Architects
Image courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architects

By Meghan Hall

Silicon Valley is most well-known for its booming tech industry, with innovative companies such as Apple, Google, Oracle and Intel dominating much of the local economy. While the economic prosperity that has been brought about by the success of these companies is mostly positive, rapidly increasing commercial rents have made it difficult for local and regional arts centers to compete for space.

A new agreement between the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley Creates (“SVCreates”), a Santa Clara-based creative arts investor, is looking to re-establish the Silicon Valley arts community with the construction of a 55,000 square foot facility known as the Creative Center for the Arts in Japantown Square in San Jose. SVCreates is joined by three partner organizations who are acting as equity partners and anchor tenants: San Jose Taiko, the New Ballet School and CreaTV San José. Other anchor tenants include Teatro Vision, Vivace Youth Chorus, SJ Jazz and others.

Bay Area-based Nova Partners will be managing the project’s construction while west coast firm Ankrom Moisan Architects is designing the project. Both firms have extensive experience constructing and designing projects in the Bay Area.

“The Creative Center is being designed as a sustainable hub of spaces and resources for the creative sector in a way that embraces Silicon Valley’s diversity, entrepreneurial spirit and culture of collaboration,” said Alexandra Urbanowski, the associate director and director of strategic initiatives for SVCreates.

The City and SVCreates have agreed to a 55-year Ground Lease Agreement, whereby the lessee shall pay a nominal $1 per year for rental, use and occupancy of the property. The lease will begin when the first sub-lessee has moved into the building and a notice of completion of construction has been filed with the City.

According to the agreement, a one million dollar public subsidy will be provided for use of the land at below market rent. However, no additional funds will be provided by the City to support development, construction or operation of the center. The lessee will pay all taxes, fees and maintenance costs for the property. The subsidy will be considered at a City Council meeting on January 9, 2018.

To fund the project, SVCreates seeks to raise around $30 million through local and national grants and major gifts. So far, donors to the project include the Packard Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, ArtPlace America and the anchor tenants. Additional grants are pending based on the approval of the Ground Lease Agreement.

The redevelopment of the 0.75-acre site, has been debated since 2003 in about 100 different community meetings. The current plans submitted by SVCreates have been well received by the public. “The local community has been enthusiastic and strongly supportive of the CCA project,” said Urbanowski.

The three-story building will host office, studio, classroom and rehearsal space to accommodate a diverse number of nonprofits arts groups and community organizations. Plans for the site, while preliminary, will also include a public plaza park.

While there is no current timeline for construction of the CCA, the Ground Lease Agreement stipulates that SVCreates must begin construction within four years of the effective date of the agreement and must be completed within six years of the effective date.

The project was reviewed by the City’s Planning Division in October, when it received its Planned Development and zoning permits. As of January 2017, both the design development phase had been completed and the project’s construction permit had been approved. SVCreates plans to submit a building permit application in mid-2018 and begin construction of the center by the end of 2018.

When complete, the project will not only provide valuable rental space at an affordable rate, but will also aim to offer cost-saving marketing, legal and IT solutions to reduce the financial burden of operating in such a competitive market. Hoge Fenton, a California law firm, SPUR San José, a civic planning organization, and Deloitte Consulting are among the firms offering their services to CCA’s tenants. With these initiatives in place, the City and SVCreates hope to draw arts groups back to Silicon Valley.

Image courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architects
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