Long-Shuttered Downtown San Jose Venue Gets New Life.

http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/08/02/long-shuttered-downtown-san-jose-venue-gets-a-lifeline/

Once one of the busiest and loudest street corners in San Jose, two neighboring properties at the intersection of Second and Santa Clara streets, for more than six years, have sat empty, dark and silent.

Previously home to nightlife venues Voodoo Lounge and Toons, the combined 12,000 square feet of space provided a crash course in sound throughout the aughts. Voodoo hosted punk and rock shows as well as notable touring acts in hip-hop and R&B, while the latter blended genres as a piano bar and Top 40 dance club.

Since 2011, however, when both businesses shuttered, the corner has been an entertainment abyss. That should change soon.

Renovations are underway to transform the old Toons lounge, a 5,528 square-foot property at 52 E. Santa Clara St., into a bar and arcade come spring 2018. Last month, business partners George Lahlouh, Dan Phan and Johnny Wang officially closed on a lease of the property with Lift Partners.

The proprietors of the high-end yet unstuffy cocktail lounge Paper Plane on South First Street—Phan and Wang own the neighboring gourmet hot dog and craft beer shop, Original Gravity Public House—nabbed the venue to capitalize on an industry trend they’ve seen in other major markets, such as Barcade in New York City, Ground Kontrol in Portland, Brewcade in San Francisco and Button Mash in Los Angeles.

“We are creating a cocktail-beer bar that will encompass the best of both worlds,” Lahlouh says. “The best that Paper Plane and Original Gravity have to offer.”

Gensler, the international architecture, design and planning firm, which has a San Jose office just down the street on West Santa Clara, will help oversee the design of the yet-to-be named “barcade,” which will have two bars, a separate kitchen, and arcade and pinball games in nearly every direction.

“It’ll all be coin operated, kind of like when you were a kid at Golfland,” Phan says.

Many of the machines were purchased at Captain’s Auction Warehouse, which is based in Anaheim. The barcade’s ownership group is clearly stoked about the selection of titles they’re acquiring, which include pristine condition games such Terminator 2 and NBA Jam. “We have no emulators,” Phan says. “The original cabinet is really important.”

The pinball selection, however, could be the crown jewel of the barcade’s offerings. They’ll feature titles such as Medieval Madness and Monster Bash, which can retail online for as much as $17,000.

“We like to think we have the six best pinball games ever made,” Phan says.

For now, the space previously home to Voodoo Lounge, located at 14 S. Second St., remains vacant. The music venue was a popular attraction in downtown San Jose’s nightlife scene for 11 years, before closing in February 2011. In its last month, Grammy Award-winning artist Miguel appeared at a surprise show, and a month before that rapper Talib Kweli performed.

Voodoo Lounge was pivotal in San Jose’s small live-music clique along with the Cactus Club and Blank Club, bringing live music downtown. Performers may not have been big enough to fill SAP Center, but they gave locals an opportunity to witness up-and-comers and the occasional prime-time act.

Both the Voodoo and upcoming barcade properties are under the ownership of San Francisco-based Lift Partners, which purchased the adjoining venues from Saratoga Capital in August 2016 as part of a $33.5 million package, according to the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Many have wondered why the properties languished for so long, and it appears the new owners had a vision that didn’t entail waiting for a residential project to fill the space.

“Previously it was a challenging retail market, but there is a lot of good news in the last three years,” says Chris Freise says, manager and co-founder of Lift Partners.

Nate Echeverria, director of policy and operations for the San Jose Downtown Association,  suggests the long wait might have had something do with the interior. “The spaces that tend to stay vacant longer are a raw shell,” he says. “Whoever goes in there will have to install a new [heating and air conditioning system] and come up to all the green building standards.”

For small businesses, that’s a costly upfront challenge.

The city has been working with small businesses to give them a head start in this process, through the San Jose Storefronts Initiative, which offsets some city permit fees and taxes. This initiative was funded with $250,000 and it intends to divvy up the money to help offset the costs of city fees, permits and taxes, as well as exterior improvements of up to $5,000 for existing small businesses.

Freise says that Lift Partners, which have a go-getter reputation for retail projects after coming out of Seattle and working with Amazon, knew the space needed to add something vibrant to the well-trafficked downtown corridor.

“We are looking for authentic retail,” he says. “You know it when you see it. … 7-Eleven came knocking on our door—we did not accept. It doesn’t add to the overall story of downtown.”

Freise, now a resident of the area, has an idea of what community members are craving.“We want to see these places activated,” he says.

Echeverria notes that people have told the city they want to see a mix business in the old Voodoo space, perhaps even a collection of restaurants that offers an open space and food options throughout the day.

The barcade team intends to bring on executive chef Winson Duong to craft a diverse food menu with lunch hours available for all ages. In the late afternoon, the venue will go to 21 and over.

“There’s no reason why Silicon Valley won’t embrace it,” Lahlouh says. “The timing is right, the folks that grew up with these games are in their late 20s and 30s.”

Every member of the team hails from San Jose, and that hometown connection seems to have also resonated with local crowds. The intersection of Second and Santa Clara streets can be a haven for the homeless and corner boys in the evenings, Phan and Lahlouh acknowledge, but the same could have been said about the block of South First Street they helped reinvigorate with Original Gravity and Paper Plane. Bars such as 55 South and Nomikai also assisted in the SoFA District’s renaissance as one heads further down to the downtown arts district.

“Right now, if everything goes smooth—which rarely happens—we’re looking at February, March of next year,” Phan says.

Once that happens, a once-cracking venue will be reintroduced to the community through an equally familiar concept.

“We’re kind of reintroducing an old idea that’s been forgotten,” Lahlou says, “which is that arcades are social.”

Is this San Jose’s big renaissance? Watch it happen with Crane Watch

http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2017/04/20/san-jose-crane-watch-sv-business-journal.html

Five years from now, San Jose’s skyline will look markedly different.

The city, with a population of just over 1 million people today, is booming with development. Many of those projects are not small endeavors, but tall, glassy, upscale towers that will bring new residents, office space and retail options.

To track large development projects in the city, the Silicon Valley Business Journal today launches Crane Watch. This new project is starting with a focus on San Jose but will soon expand to the rest of Santa Clara County and other points in Silicon Valley.

Among the developments shaping the San Jose skyline is Silvery Towers at 180 W. St. James St., a glimmering 640-unit luxury condominium development with 30,000 square feet of retail space in two towers rising 228 feet tall. About a half mile away, the proposed Greyhound Station development would include two 23-story towers with 708 residential units and ground floor commercial space.

CLICK HERE FOR CRANE WATCH

And in one of the biggest developments in San Jose's history, Trammell Crow is planning more than 1 million square feet of office and retail space under 325 residential units at 402 W. Santa Clara St., adjacent to Diridon Transit Station, which is slated to see high-speed trains come through by 2025.

Some, in recent months, have speculated that San Jose may be going through a renaissance — a true turning point for the city.

Chris Freise, a partner with San Francisco-based Lift Partners, is one of those who sees a shifting tide in San Jose. Freise is in the process of gutting and putting back together the historic building at 1 W. Santa Clara St. in San Jose’s downtown district. His is one of several old buildings in the area currently grabbing developers’ attention.

Across the street, San Francisco-based DivcoWest is renovating the historic building at 1 W. Santa Clara St., to make room for smaller, creative firms after the building for years has sat partially vacant.

Those projects are a part of a larger shift happening in San Jose, specifically in and around the downtown area, Freise said in an interview earlier this year.

“Downtown has got this great revitalization, or kind of urban renaissance happening, and the buildings in the historic district are a big part of why it is happening,” he said.

Older, authentic buildings have a way of drawing startups and tech companies, and that San Jose has a collection of the very few that exist south of San Francisco, Freise said.

It’s not the first time someone has suggested that San Jose, known as the capitol of Silicon Valley, may be on the verge of blossoming bigger. But this time, could they be right?

Crane Watch is starting with a focus first in the 176 square miles of San Jose. We’ll be logging and updating the status of the city’s projects that are 100,000 square feet in size or larger. In the coming months, we’ll expand the tracker to include other Santa Clara County cities.