How a large-scale development helped a sprawling city San Jose


A street in Santana Row. Source: Wikipedia.


Santana Row is a mixed-use development on a former strip mall in San Jose, California, about three miles from downtown. The 42-acre development by Federal Realty includes 834 residential units, office space, and substantial restaurants and retail, including big box stores.

Although Santana Row is technically in a city, the area is suburban by design. About 90 percent of San Jose was built since 1950, when conventional suburban development (CSD) became the norm.

Santana Row began in the early 2000s and survived a catastrophic fire that caused $130 million in damage during construction. Since opening, Santana Row has had a positive impact on the surrounding CSD in at least four ways:

• Santana Row proved the market for mixed-use, walkable development in the area—and this may have contributed to the revitalization of the city’s downtown several miles away, notes Ellen Dunham-Jones, coauthor of Retrofitting Suburbia.

• The project has had several expansions since opening, broadening the walkable area. “Urban housing has been built on two more blocks of surface parking lots on its eastern flank. Urban office has been built on a large surface lot to the southwest, adjacent to the movie theater, and new office space was built on top of a parking deck immediately south of the theater. The big expansion now involves the construction of way more office across Winchester Boulevard,” Dunham-Jones says.

• Federal Realty is leveraging the attractive urban feel of the project to generate high office rents in an area, Silicon Valley, where that is rare. In doing so, the developer is reinforcing connections across at least one of the adjacent arterial roads.

• On the public sector side, Dunham-Jones notes that since the project’s success the city has designated Santana Row and the Valley Fair Mall across Stevens Creek Boulevard for higher density. There is a Winchester “corridor plan” underway and new Bus Rapid Transit on Stevens Creek planned now that the mall and several nearby properties are expanding or redeveloping, including the recently approved plan for retrofitting properties along the next three miles west of Santana Row into Stevens Creek Urban Village.