A Design Competition is Underway to Transform San Jose’s St. James Park

San Jose St. James Park St. James Square National Register Historic District Silicon Valley Bay Area

San Jose St. James Park St. James Square National Register Historic District Silicon Valley Bay AreaBy Jacob Bourne

St. James Park, a seven-acre park in downtown San Jose, bisected by 2nd Street and the nearby Santa Clara Superior Court is to undergo a tangible and programmatic transformation involving the creation of a performing arts pavilion and updates to the landscaping and other structures. An initiative of the City’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, the goal of the project is to make the park “A vibrant and awe-inspiring public space that residents and employees in downtown and the entire community will be proud of and will want to enjoy repeatedly with family, friends and neighbors.”

The environmental review process for the project is in progress with a community scoping meeting that was held on June 15, in the midst of a public comment period that ended June 24. A notable aspect of this public sector development is that a competition will be held to determine the design team for the project.

[contextly_sidebar id=”8DhifSgAef4rQp2twGOpJ6fkTcIa4Jc8″]Construction of the Levitt Pavilion will accommodate 7,000 performance attendees and will seat 5,000, though the average anticipated attendance for events will be between 1,000 and 2,500 and will include lighting and sound amplification systems. Also involved will be the rearrangement of fountains and historical markers, replacement of non-heritage trees and the construction of restrooms and vending facilities. These upgrades will transform the park into a destination that features a regular music and events schedule as well as commercial activities like farmer’s markets and food vending.

The City received 16 sets of qualification packages from potential design teams who are interested in participating in the competition to re-envision St. James Park. The next stage is to select three to five teams who will each be granted $25,000 to develop design plans for the project. There will be an announcement of the teams in July followed by jury deliberations beginning in September, and the announcement of the winner by the end of October 2016.

“The sets of qualifications are impressive,” said Marybeth Harasz, deputy director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services. “There are a few key issues about the project. The park is located within a national historic district, and we are looking for teams that have experience working in historic parks with nationally-recognized work. We’re also looking for teams with experience working on music pavilions and who have a good vision for San Jose.”

The area’s rich history includes designation as part of the St. James Square National Register Historic District and the St. James Square City Landmark District. Approximately 2,704 households are within a 0.3 mile radius of the park and City officials have found the park to be underused in recent years coupled with an increase in public safety issues in the vicinity. The aim of the project is to revitalize the park, originally developed in 1868, as an enhanced public space benefit for the entire San Jose community.

The budget for the projects has yet to be determined. Today, the combined funding for parks and recreation capital projects, operations and maintenance for the area is $36.6 million, of which $9.2 million is devoted specifically to St. James Park.

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