Thursday, January 10, 2008

San Jose's Japantown: a balancing act between developer and community

Katherine Conrad writes:

As demolition of San Jose's former storage yard begins this month, the stakes are high for a development struggling to get the right mix of culture, commerce and condos in the heart of Japantown.

Since March, city officials, community leaders and developer Williams & Dame of Portland have been working on the project that has already stymied one developer.

"This project must make economic sense and still give people a sense of place," said Jerry Hiura, a Japanese-American and San Jose resident who has been closely involved with the project. "At the same time, we want to build something beautiful that has a relationship with the existing community."

That's a tall order for any development. Given the nation's declining housing market, the challenge becomes even more formidable for a residential project estimated to cost $350 million.

As one of only three historical Japantowns and the location of the former Chinatown known as Heinlenville, the 5-acre site that served as the city's maintenance facility for decades, also is undergoing an archaeological excavation.

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