Santana Row: Hipster Alert

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Proximity to Santana Row and Valley Fair is a major selling point at SummerHill Homes’ Midtown Village, where 110 single-family and townhomes priced from the mid $900,000s are being developed, said Robert Freed, president and chief executive of SummerHill. Residents can easily walk to both centers.

Buyers are an ethnically diverse cross-section of mostly high-tech workers in their middle and later 30s with young families. “We have sold out every release within five minutes through an online process,” Freed said.

For now, San Jose officials are paying close attention to Federal’s office leasing. “Depending on how they do, other people will want to get in the game,” said Michael Brilliot, senior planner with the City of San Jose. Developers also are watching the success of the Hotel Valencia at Santana Row, the hotel of choice for visiting pro hockey and football teams. “That’s where the 49ers have apartments and hang out,” he said.

Leah Toeniskoetter, San Jose director for research nonprofit SPUR, believes that Santana Row is proof that South Bay residents like urban environments. “Although it is a development that was created from scratch all at once and is by no means a traditional urban neighborhood, it demonstrates some of the truths about urbanism—that people like to spend time outdoors in public, that good design matters, that people-watching is fun, that it takes a critical mass of pedestrians to give a shopping district energy.”

Still, the jury is out on how strong the economic force for change really is. Todd Oliver, a principal with Terranomics, the retail arm of Cassidy Turley, says land in the area is so expensive that developers have to create density to justify values—moreover, they have to get their hands on the property first: “There’s a lot of viable, strong businesses, and [developers] have to figure out something that makes more money than what’s already there.”

“Leases need to expire and owners would need to sell. That’s a long process; businesses are not wanting to give up that easily,” he said.

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Photography by Laura Kudritzki

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