The city of San Jose has taken a significant step towards transforming its downtown area by approving the initial plans to make San Pedro Street a permanent pedestrian-only walkway. This ambitious urban redevelopment project is expected to cost approximately $9.5 million and take at least two and a half years to complete, according to a San José Spotlight report.
San Pedro Street has seen a resurgence in popularity since the start of the San Jose Al Fresco initiative in 2020, which allowed businesses to operate outdoors during the pandemic. Later, the street closure to cars was extended in 2022, and now, the city plans to create a pedestrian mall in the area. The unanimous vote by the San Jose City Council on May 23, 2023, signifies their commitment to revitalizing the heart of downtown San Jose and making it a more vibrant and attractive destination for both residents and tourists.
The approved plans include repaving San Pedro Street as a sidewalk, rerouting the parking garage exit, and implementing various beautification measures. Additionally, the city plans to redesign the area to adhere to fire and life safety requirements, ensure accessibility for food delivery and garbage pick-up, and provide other crucial city services. These long-term infrastructure improvements will require significant investment, but local business owners believe it will be well worth the cost.
Randy Musterer, owner of local restaurant Sushi Confidential, "The city is not pouring in about $10 million to create something that we haven’t tried yet. We know this area is going to thrive." Musterer is not alone in this positive outlook, as the transformation of San Pedro Street is expected to help downtown San Jose compete with other popular destinations, such as Santana Row and nearby malls.
City officials, as reported by ABC7 News, are eager to see San Pedro Street become not only a permanent pedestrian-only walkway but also the first pedestrian mall in San Jose. The plans will require businesses to move their outdoor seating from the middle of the street to the edge of the sidewalk next to their building, creating a 20-foot-wide walkway down the center of San Pedro Street for pedestrians and emergency vehicles.
This project promises to radically change the landscape of downtown San Jose, attracting more visitors and providing a unique urban experience. As Miguel Gonzalez, general manager for San Pedro Square Market, stated, "Just being so close to everything else, you've got multiple restaurants out here that you can choose from, bars and the SAP, Center for Performing Arts - there's so many things within walking distance."
While the project's nearly $10 million price tag will be a burden on the city's general fund, San Jose's leaders are looking for potential grants and external funding sources to support construction. Blage Zelalich, deputy director of economic development, mentioned that they are "seeking private sources, potentially going for a federal or a state earmark."
Despite the financial challenges and the need for additional permits, local business owners like Musterer remain optimistic and supportive of the vision for San Pedro Street. They believe that once completed, the project will be a win-win for both businesses and city residents.
The San Jose City Council's approval of the initial plans is a crucial first step in this bold urban transformation. With ongoing support from local businesses, city officials, and the community, San Pedro Street is well on its way to becoming a pedestrian-only path that will significantly contribute to the revitalization of downtown San Jose. The city's commitment to providing a unique and vibrant urban experience in the heart of San Jose demonstrates the power of innovative thinking and dedication to creating a more livable and attractive city for all.