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Development Rekindles Small Town Feel

The new, privately developed Willow Glen Town Square held its grand opening party Saturday. The event was well attended by happy residents, eager business owners, loyal patrons, and other local well-wishers who came to celebrate this wonderful new addition to our community.

This well-planned development replaced a liquor store and non-optimized parking lot with a three-story office and retail complex complete with an on-site, updated garage. The property owner thoughtfully designed the corner (Lincoln Avenue/Willow Street) by choosing to create a public plaza that includes a fountain, seating pavilion and beautiful landscaping.

This new fountain area is constantly filled with people both young and old alike, united in their enjoyment of this enhanced open space. The WG Town Square serves as an example of how development can lead to successful outcomes. When more building height is accepted, there is an ability to provide amenities like the plaza. The credit for the overall vision and successful execution of this project belongs largely to the civic-minded private property owner.

Neighborhood business districts are comprised of brick and mortar storefronts, but it is the surrounding physical environment—as well as the variety of goods and services offered from merchant storefronts—that bring animation and “life” to commercial streets. It is in convivial environments such as Lincoln Avenue, where one can frequently see smiling couples walking hand in hand, people strolling with their animal companions in tow and families simply enjoying a beautiful day together. One could argue that, in contrast to the environments created by indoor mega malls or online e-commerce sites, thoughtful development of neighborhood business districts encourage greater social interaction among members of our community, offer a more personal, stress-free opportunity to shop, stroll, or dine, and help encourage a more desirable small town “look and feel” in our neighborhoods.

Private property owners on Lincoln Avenue stepped up and taxed themselves, forming a Community Benefit Assessment District to pay for services the city cannot provide like landscaping and tree trimming. It is especially important to patronize and support an area that has engaged property owners willing to self-fund improvements to the business district.

When this development was first proposed, I decided to host a community meeting for the purpose of sharing information and garnering feedback from residents prior to the developer applying for a permit. Some in the neighborhood were fearful of any development or change to the status quo. However, others felt that development would be a net positive for the business district and the neighborhood. After the architect and property owner finished the presentation at the community meeting, one neighborhood resident, when asked for feedback, said to the entire audience, “I have two words … Bra—Vo!”

I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. “Bravo” is indeed the perfect word to describe this new addition to our community. Mindful, well-planned and executed development has the potential to increase property tax, sales tax and utility tax revenues, as well as the number of jobs available to those seeking employment.

I am grateful that this property owner—and all individuals who contributed to Lincoln Avenue in the past—had the confidence to risk spending millions of dollars in San Jose, which paves the way for future prosperity and reinvestment in our neighborhoods. My hope is that property owners in all of our neighborhood business districts will now see that more can be done with their existing properties, creating a greater sense of place and more commerce in San Jose.

This large investment from the property owner allows for additional investments by small business in this development. Many of these same businesses are independently owned and not large corporations. Whether it be the two brothers that recently opened up a restaurant, or the husband and wife team opening up a candle making store, these enterprises contribute to the diversity of product and service offerings in Willow Glen. They bring vibrancy to our commercial district. Unfortunately, it is businesses such as these that would be at an immediate competitive disadvantage should Measure D pass.

As I have written before, Measure D will put San Jose at a disadvantage to neighboring cities by raising payroll cost 38 percent for business that employ minimum wage workers. Measure D will do nothing to bring in more sales for these business to cover the substantial cost increase nor provide any exemptions for small business, non-profits or tipped employees. Vote “no” on D so we can avoid creating another government bureaucracy and instead continue building a tax base to pay for city services.

On another note, my condolences to the Chaid family of San Jose, who lost David—a great teacher, coach and veteran—to cancer this week. Please consider attending the Veteran’s Day Parade this Sunday downtown to show support for all of our veterans.

Pierluigi Oliverio is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 6.


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