Google recommits to build Downtown West transit village in San Jose

Google’s Downtown West, an 80-acre transit village proposed for Downtown San Jose, has revived from the apparent grave it fell into last spring, according to company executives and public officials.

In her first appearance at the building site since the campus project had been shelved, Ruth Porat, chief investment officer of Google parent Alphabet, said the company is committed to the project’s completion, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.  She just wouldn’t say when.

“Here in Downtown West, with input from San Jose residents, businesses and civic leaders, we have created a multi-decade opportunity and development plan,” Porat said in a speech during a Google block party last weekend. “We did that because we believe in the people who live here, who work here and are committed to being here in San Jose.”

The arts and food shindig was held by Mountain View-based Google in partnership with real estate firm Jamestown, based in Atlanta and Germany, within the footprint of the proposed mixed-use transit village near Diridon Station and SAP Center. 

The public party on Barack Obama Boulevard came five months after the tech titan paused development in April, sending shock waves through San Jose and Silicon Valley.

Cancellation of a project that was supposed to have broken ground this year cast a dark cloud over what had been the centerpiece of Downtown development: a plan to build 4,000 homes, 7.3 million square feet of offices, 500,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, a community center and 15 acres of parks. Its economic impact was estimated at $19 billion.

Diridon Station, where Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, high-speed rail and other forms of transit are slated to meet, was set to become the West Coast’s Grand Central. The project was expected to house up to 25,000 Google workers in the new neighborhood 15 miles east of Google’s headquarters. 

Then Google, after laying off 1,600 workers across the Bay Area and announcing a $500 million cost to exit offices worldwide, said in February it was reassessing its timeline for Downtown West.

A month later, it laid off its top real estate official, Jay Bechtel. In April, CNBC reported that Australia-based Lendlease, the lead developer, laid off 67 local workers, including numerous development managers.

Google also stripped Downtown West construction updates from its website.

While the weekend block party marked Google’s most visible presence since the project was approved in 2021, Porat did not give any updates on its construction timeline. Project brochures on hand at the party also kept mum on when Google would restart Downtown West.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, made an appearance to address the gap, adding that the company was awarding a $250,000 grant to People Assisting the Homeless, a local nonprofit.

“The CEO and the executives have promised us that although the development has been slightly delayed,” Lofgren told the crowd, “it is not in doubt,” 

— Dana Bartholomew

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