South Bay group fights to preserve historic Diridon train station ahead of major expansion plans

South Bay group fights to preserve historic Diridon train station ahead of major expansion plans
Photo Credit: Caltrain
By Wesley Severson - Published on October 04, 2021.

Development plans are underway all across downtown San Jose, and that includes directly next to Diridon Station, which serves Caltrain, Amtrak, and other rail lines including a future new BART stop. Diridon Station opened in 1935 during the Great Depression, and was designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance Revival. Now, one preservation group is highly concerned about the building’s fate amid all the new high-rise construction that has been approved.

“The station’s architectural significance and civic prominence are both unparalleled,” the Preservation Action Council of San Jose wrote in a letter obtained by Mercury News. The group’s biggest worry is the plan for two large office buildings that would be constructed on adjoining property. Plans call for part of that development to directly connect to the train station. The group is requesting that city of San Jose suspend the project until a clearer vision for the fate of Diridon Station is laid out. 

To accommodate all the new housing and office towers in downtown San Jose, South Bay transportation officials are currently creating plans for a dramatic expansion at Diridon Station. The Preservation Action Council is now asking the agencies involved in the planning process to clearly lay out their intentions for the station’s main building. 

“We demand that the preservation of the existing train station should be a guiding principle of the efforts regarding the transit center. It requires creative planning to design around the existing station or to move the station,” Ben Leech, executive director of Preservation Action Council told Mercury News. “The station’s fate is very much up in the air. If the vision for the transit center is starting to coalesce, that vision should state they are going to preserve the station. If they don’t want to save it, they should admit that,” Leech says. 

In its early years, Diridon Station was known as "the crown jewel of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s San Francisco-San Jose line.” Other major U.S. cities including Los Angeles have been able to preserve their historic train stations despite dramatic expansions. “There has been a shift in thinking that historic train stations are great place-making venues. A historic station is very important and irreplaceable,” Leech says.

So far, there’s been no comment on the group’s requests from city planners or developers of the project.