February 26, 2024
A top executive of Google owner Alphabet joined a block party this weekend, fresh evidence the tech titan aims to build a huge downtown San Jose transit village.

SAN JOSE — A top executive of Google owner Alphabet joined a block party this weekend and made it clear the tech titan aims to build a huge mixed-use neighborhood in downtown San Jose.

Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer with Alphabet, which owns Google, was a featured speaker at the first of what’s expected to be a series of Creekside Socials block parties that Google and real estate firm Jamestown are planning to help create lively activities ahead of the actual construction of the search giant’s downtown San Jose transit village.

Ruth Porat, president and chief investment officer of Google owner Alphabet, talks to people gathered at the Creekside Socials block party in the footprint of Google’s proposed transit-oriented village near the Diridon train station in downtown San Jose. (George Avalos/Bay Area News Group)

Downtown West, as the future neighborhood is known, would sprout near the Diridon train station and SAP Center on the western edges of downtown San Jose.

“Here in Downtown West, with input from San Jose residents, businesses and civic leaders, we have created a multi-decade opportunity and development plan,” Porat said in a speech during the Creekside Socials block party on Saturday. “We did that because we believe in the people who live here, who work here and are committed to being here in San Jose.”

Creek bridge and nature areas near Diridon train station in Google’s Downtown West project in downtown San Jose, concept. (SITELAB urban studio, Google)

Google’s transit village is expected to accommodate up to 7.3 million square feet of offices, 4,000 residential units, 500,000 square feet of retail space that would include shops and restaurants, 300 hotel rooms and 15 acres of open space. Google expects to employ up to 20,000 of its workers in the new neighborhood.

“We are going to continue to see the development of some really exciting efforts, office development, residential housing, and something I am particularly excited about, acres of public space,” Porat said.

Gateway section near Water Company Building within Google’s Downtown West transit-oriented neighborhood in downtown San Jose, concept. (SITELAB urban studio, Google)

Several other key Alphabet or Google executives were in attendance at the Creekside Socials event.

To be sure, Google is conducting a reassessment of the precise development timeline for Downtown West, as the company told this news organization in February.

San Jose Mayor Tom Mahan (L), U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (C) and Ruth Porat (R), president and chief investment officer of Google owner Alphabet, attend a Creekside Socials block party in the footprint of a transit village Google plans to build in downtown San Jose near the Diridon train station and SAP Center. (George Avalos/Bay Area News Group)

Even so, the appearance of Porat and other top-level Google executives at the Sept. 9 event is significant in that they publicly signaled the tech titan fully intends to build the game-changing project.

“The CEO and the executives have promised us that although the development has been slightly delayed it is not in doubt,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) said in a speech at the socials event.

Lofgren also announced that the philanthropic arm of Google is awarding a $250,000 grant to People Assisting the Homeless, or PATH.

The just-completed initial Creekside Socials event is just one way that Google aims to follow through on ways to create lively streetscapes and building uses prior to the official start of the Downtown West development, in Lofgren’s view.

“In the meantime, we will have exciting activities in the area that Google has acquired for that development, and this is part of it,” Lofgren said, referring to the Creekside Socials event.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said during a speech that he appreciates the efforts by Google to scout for ways to activate the Downtown West area.

The mayor noted that the downtown faces an uphill climb to rebound in the wake of the coronavirus-linked business shutdowns imposed by state and local government agencies that largely emptied out downtown San Jose of office workers, dining patrons and shoppers.

“We are working very hard to get our downtown to be vibrant again,” Mahan said. “We lost those office workers, but they are slowly coming back. As we come out of the pandemic, people are yearning for community. They want to connect with people face-to-face like we are doing today.”

Mahan believes that Google’s community-oriented approach to the Downtown West development is what San Jose is seeking from the tech company.

“We couldn’t ask for a partner that is more innovative, forward-looking, holistic-thinking and community-oriented than Google,” Mahan said.

Details of the pre-development street and building activations weren’t immediately available.

Porat, however, did point to some specific endeavors that are in the works.

The tech company is working with area nonprofits, Porat said. These include such as Local Color, Year Up and Good Karma Bikes, which has moved into a building across the street from Diridon Station. Good Karma is actually a Google tenant at present. Local Color helps artists in the region to find places and ways to display their crafts.

“We are going to be preserving the historic San Jose Water Company building,” Porat said. “We are working with local artists to bring their work to the site.”

One local observer believes the involvement of Alphabet’s president and chief investment officer demonstrates a significant vote of confidence in the mixed-use neighborhood, a potential game-changer for downtown San Jose.

“Google having Ruth Porat at the event shows a high-level commitment to the Downtown West project,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy. “We will see if this changes the narrative on downtown west.”