African American Cultural Center, Affordable Homes, Peeped in San Jose

SAN JOSE — An African-American cultural center, affordable homes, retail and other developments could sprout on a high-visibility site in San Jose, according to plans presented at San Jose City Hall.

The mixed-use complex is planned for 2001 The Alameda, city documents show.

“It’s taken 25 years, with lots of stops and starts, but it’s finally happening,” said Walter Wilson, project manager for the cultural center effort. “This is the George Floyd era. The universe recognizes that this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it. Wilson is also co-founder and managing director of the Minority Business Consortium.

The proposed development is called the Silicon Valley African-American Signature Project. The African American Community Service Agency and First Community Housing are among the main groups leading the project. It is not known when the project could start.

Street level view of a San Jose site that will include the African American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley, affordable apartments, cultural facilities and retail at the 2001 concept The Alameda. (Moody Nolan, studio YA)

“The vision of the African American Signature project is a mixed-use center combining affordable housing, commercial nonprofit programs and outpatient clinics, as well as community gathering spaces and retail,” the proposal states.

The project would rise on a triangle-shaped parcel perched next to the Interstate 880 interchange and the Alameda.

“One of the goals of the project is to give visibility to the African-American community in Santa Clara County,” the planning documents say. “It will be a center for events, meetings and retail activities focused on serving this population.”

While the cultural center is envisioned as a unique destination for the region, affordable housing is a crucial part of the planned project, according to the proposal filed with the city.

“The main programming element is the 100% affordable housing component to meet local needs,” the city records say. “The project aims to use the state’s density bonus to provide a substantial number of units.”

Site plan for a project that will include the African American Cultural Center of Silicon Valley, affordable apartments, cultural facilities and retail at 2001 The Alameda in San Jose, concept. (Moody Nolan, studio YA)

The nine-story project would create 109 residential units. The complex will be highly visible from Interstate 880 and the buildings will feature varying heights to help the complex blend into the adjacent residential and office sites.

“With housing, retail and cultural activities, there will be so many opportunities on site,” Wilson said. “We’re thinking of having an African American museum, a performing arts center, a daycare center.”

The African American Community Services Agency is expected to operate its offices at the center and provide cultural and recreational services, according to the proposal.

Roots Clinic and Ujima Adult & Family Services, organizations that provide African American-centric health and behavioral health needs, will also have facilities on site.

“This extraordinary project is an example of persistent leadership combined with forward-thinking vision,” said Bob Staedler, principal of Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use planning consultancy.

Staedler, who was once the property manager for the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, said the now-defunct government organization has failed to deliver on its commitments in recent years to build the African American Cultural Center.

“I’m grateful this project has reached this milestone,” Staedler said.

Momentum For Health, a mental health clinic, currently occupies the property. Santa Clara County purchased the development site in August 2021 from Momentum for Health.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Wilson credited the organization for not seeking a maximum price for the main venue. The developers may well have offered a much higher bid than the county paid, Wilson said. Wilson said the deal might not have happened without the leadership of David Mineta, president of Momentum.

“It really shows the importance of everyone working together in a way that goes beyond race and culture,” Wilson said. “We also have a fabulous partnership with First Community Housing.”

Open spaces and gathering areas will be provided at several levels of the site, according to development plans.

“The project will provide an activated frontage along the Alameda with a ground floor plaza connected to a retail corridor,” according to the proposal filed with the city.

The cultural center should be able to attract visitors from across the Bay Area, Wilson said.

“It will be iconic, it will be a destination that people everywhere will want to visit,” Wilson said. “It will be a beautiful place with a rich history, culture, interesting events.”

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