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[whitespace] A Year to Redevelop

Diagnosis: Citywide Clinical Depression

By Jeff Kearns

This year was a little bit like a Seinfeld episode in downtown San Jose: It was notable for what didn't happen. Big deals fell through and small businesses failed. The whole thing leaves downtown feeling more than a little blue. Downtown is clinically depressed.

In February, downtown dweller and San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales pronounced in his State of the City speech that downtown was "sizzling" and "We're on a roll, baby!" Obviously, these famously un-Gonzales-like remarks were due to one of the symptoms of severe depression: short-term memory loss. Either Gonzales confused downtown San Jose with downtown Mountain View or he just plain forgot that his own downtown, after two decades and billions of dollars of a massive redevelopment effort, is still more like a West Coast version of Tulsa.

Palladium, the deep-pocketed East Coast developer that signed up for the mother of all downtown development projects, apathetically put that plan on hold this year. Though downtown was buzzing with rumors that Palladium was going to pull out--a commercial suicide--the company got an extension until next spring and is currently finalizing its plans for the unprecedented shopping, entertainment and retail project.

Another classic symptom of depression is a sudden change in appetite. Accordingly, downtown eateries Casa Castillo and Mongo's closed this year. And speaking of the blues, House of Blues announced this year that its new club is on hold indefinitely--a clear example of lethargy, one of the hallmarks of depression.

Redevelopment boss Susan Shick dropped her idea to dig up two downtown parks and build subterranean parking garages. Sorry, Susan, but the doctor knows that difficulty thinking or concentrating are well known symptoms of depression. Even the city's plan to build a new city hall downtown was dealt a depressing blow this year when a lawsuit filed by a former mayor blocked the use of redevelopment funds in the project.

One of the triggers of depression can be financial problems, and the sour economic times are a clear contributor to the patient's depression. Downtown has tried and failed so many times, it must seem hopeless to go on. After all these years, there still isn't a decent bookstore, or a place to get a sandwich after midnight. Sounds like a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. A classic symptom.

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From the January 3-9, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2002 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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