San Jose's historic First Street area becomes first of six ‘Opportunity Zones'

The landscape of San Jose is changing due to investment from both the private and public sectors. On the city’s historic First street, the first of six sites poised for transformation in the city’s first 'Opportunity Zone.'

“We go in Opportunity Zone areas, which are designated by census track and income level, and we look to do ground-up real estate development projects,” said Erik Hayden, founder of real estate investment firm Urban Catalyst.

He leads a two-pronged investment team putting up $55 million to make-over the former site of the Lido Nightclub. The redesign will include office and retail space spread over 70,000 square feet on what was a building that dates back to the 1880s.

“It’s going to be a really great addition to the historic neighborhood that is First Street,” said Hayden.

Experts say such Opportunity Zone investment has the potential to transform both the development site, and surrounding area..

“That’s the intention, is to try and attract investment so that the private capitol in the private market, can spur these greater public amenities,” said Prof. Kelly Snider, of the San Jose State University Dept. of Urban & Regional Planning.

Twelve blocks to the west of First Street, another redevelopment is planned. But this time it’s the public sector, not the private, that wants to breathe life into an area that’s been dormant for nearly a decade.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to add housing, office, and retail,” said Cindy Chavez, the Dist. 2 representative on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is considering redevelopment of between four and 18,000 square feet of mixed use space on the site of the old San Jose Medical Center. The facility would sit along a major bus route, with access to the soon-to-be built BART extension, and healthcare.

“You have the most access to public transportation, and I think a very lively street. A street that I think that’s in the process of being redeveloped,” said Chavez.

Some area neighbors hope impending redevelopment doesn’t emphasize commerce over community.

“If it’s going to be designed and planned well, then we really want to see it as a community hub. A vibrant community hub as well, with maybe coffee shop, restaurant and grocery store,” said Jennke de Vries, a resident who lives near the planned redevelopment on East Santa Clara Street, near the Naglee Park section of San Jose.

County officials say the plan is still taking shape, as both the public and private sectors race to influence the new look and feel of the city.