Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Sneak Peek Inside The San Pedro Square Market

Latest render of The San Pedro Square Market (Photo: The San Jose Blog)

A couple of weeks ago, a few bloggers and I had the opportunity to meet with San Pedro Square Market project manager Steve Borkenhagen about the progress of one of San Jose's most ambitious projects. Set to open August 1st, 2010, the San Pedro Square Market aims to offer a unique shopping experience for the citizens of Silicon Valley. Akin to San Francisco's Ferry Building or Seattle's Pike Place Market, the San Pedro Square Market will offer a variety of local products ranging from baked goods to fresh produce to artisan chocolates. And taking advantage of the city's amazing weather, the market's Peralta Plaza (surrounding San Jose's oldest building, the Peralta Adobe) will offer San Joseans a place to congregate every day of the week, from a morning coffee to an evening cocktail.

If it can be pulled off—and all indications are that Steve and his team are just the people to do it—San Pedro Square Market will quickly take its place amongst the great public markets of the world. What particularly impressed me about meeting Steve was his thirst for new ideas. He is genuinely committed to creating a unique public space—not just unique to San Jose, but unique to public markets. That's both very encouraging and refreshing. But most importantly, Steve is interested in the opinions of the citizens of Silicon Valley, so much so that there is even a sign hanging from the the site's fencing, on the corner of San Pedro and St. James, soliciting for ideas with Steve's own work number (which, by the way, is 408.813.5984).I don't recall Santana Row ever doing that. But what that sign really speaks to is the philosophy driving the project: San Pedro Square Market is a homegrown effort designed to showcase the best of the valley. And your input is invaluable.

It was chilly and rainy the night when we met Steve. He updated us on the progress, as well as gave us a tour. Han Solo famously quipped, "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts, kid." And indeed, San Pedro Square Market may not look like much now, but she certainly has it where it counts. Here are some photos I took of the two of the three retails spaces (the third to be erected soon). I'll keep you updated with news and photos as work furiously progresses toward the August opening.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

All About Kiosks, Pt I

Let's talk about kiosks. Not the cell phone or lemonade or sunglasses kiosks we've all become accustomed to seeing in malls, but the urban kiosk found on city streets.

I was recently in downtown Santa Cruz and was impressed by their use of kiosks along Pacific Avenue. There are only a few, but they are well-placed and offer a variety of services, such as flowers and food.

It's not surprising that European cities have made great use of kiosks. Taking their cue from the Ottoman Empire over 700 years ago, many European cities have integrated kiosks into their urban landscapes. And, in turn, their citizens have integrated kiosks into their everyday lives.

Paris, for example, lines its great avenues with kiosks selling everything from newspapers to tobacco to crepes. London, too, has a vibrant mix of kiosks in its urban core. In these cities and others, citizens visit regularly, places they gather. Tourists also have come to rely on kiosks for food, souvenirs, even theatre tickets, as with TKTS' famous discount ticket booths around the world.

Stateside, several cities have have taken advantage of what kiosks have to offer. Washington DC, Atlanta, San Francisco, and Seattle, amongst others, have dabbled in kiosks throughout their downtowns.

But unquestionably, the American city that has most embraced kiosks is New York City. Gotham is liberally sprinkled with kiosks throughout. New Yorkers and tourists alike have come to expect kiosks as part of the New York experience. One thing New York City has done particularly well is strategically placing their kiosks in the city's heavily-used parks.

Now back to Santa Cruz, their Pacific Avenue is an ideal location for kiosks, it's a long street with heavy traffic and a solid retail mix. Now, "heavy foot traffic" and "solid retail mix" aren't typically used to describe downtown San Jose. However, kiosks could be an interesting, and relatively inexpensive, part of the revitalization of certain areas of the city core.

In an upcoming post, I'll identity some areas of downtown San Jose I think would benefit from kiosks.