A pretty cool museum idea
In 2006, when the economy was still strong, Adobe Systems bought 8 acres of land from the San Jose Water Company. The thought was that Adobe was expanding rapidly, so it might need the land for a future headquarters expansion. At that point, Adobe’s stock was at $40 and its position as a leading software vendor in the creative community was unquestioned. Now the stock is priced at $30, and there are a few questions about where the company is headed as it pushes its subscription software model on the public. Nothing has been built or even approved for the land, which is bisected by Delmas Avenue and fronts the Guadalupe River to the east.
Along with the land is the old San Jose Water Company headquarters. Built in 1934 and designed by prominent South Bay architecture firm Binder and Curtis, the building received landmark status in 1991. Any new development by Adobe will have to leave the building intact, and it’s likely that any master planner would work to integrate the HQ into the site plan somehow.
After several decades at the prime downtown location, SJWC felt that it was time to turn one of its vital assets into cash. It was the right move on the company’s part since it came right before the real estate crash. Now Adobe has the land, which should factor into its future plans, and the building, which could be used for some commercial purpose, but not in a way that would impact its landmark status. Currently there is no tenant.
The building is a mishmash of styles, done with enough subtlety to not appear gaudy. There are neoclassical elements in the columns, bas relief carvings throughout, and a Spanish revival tiled roof. Its location is prominent in that it’s at the bend in Santa Clara Street where you can either go east towards downtown or west towards the arena and The Alameda. The site is at the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek. It also happens to be right under a landing approach to Mineta Airport, which makes it a poor spot for a ballpark (if you’re wondering).
When I asked Lew Wolff last year about having a museum at Cisco Field, he indicated that a museum would be hard to incorporate due to the lack of space at the site. He said that John Fisher may be interested in a museum tailored to the art of sports, though not necessarily an A’s museum. At 15,900 square feet, the SJWC building is a good size for a museum, whether it’s specifically for the A’s, Fisher’s sports art pursuits, or maybe both. Inside the Santa Clara Street entrance is a large, high-ceiling space, formerly cubicles, now empty. I haven’t been anywhere else in the building, so I can’t comment on what the rest of the interior looks like. Offices are located upstairs. Museums tend to run on very lean budgets due to their revenue sources, so a space this large may be too expensive unless Adobe cuts the museum a deal.
Nearing 80 years old, the building would undoubtedly require some amount of renovation work and continued upkeep to keep it going for the next several decades. The interior would have to be changed to fit a museum use better. Other than that, it should be good to go. It has dedicated parking (for now), and it’s fairly close to the ballpark. Is it close enough? You be the judge.
At the northeast corner of the Adobe/SJWC site, the building is 1/4 mile from the nearest point at Cisco Field. It’s a shorter walk to the arena from either the ballpark site or SJWC. Perhaps that’s too far to bring gameday traffic in on a consistent basis. On the other hand, SJWC’s location on Santa Clara Street is on the way to the ballpark from many points within downtown proper. It’s likely that if/when Adobe builds something there, a large public parking structure will have to be built to keep up with demand for the arena and ballpark. There’s also a chance that Adobe partners with someone like the A’s on a mixed-use development that takes advantage of the Wolff family’s development experience while helping to defray some of the cost of a new corporate campus for Adobe. And there’s always the possibility that Adobe sells the land to Wolff or other San Jose interests if they decide that a new campus isn’t in the cards.
One other interesting piece of news about Adobe may come into play. For years Adobe was a key sponsor of the San Jose Giants, the company logo emblazoned in the outfield. I haven’t been down to Muni yet this year so maybe someone can confirm this, but it appears that Adobe is no longer a sponsor (or at least a key one). That may have something to do with Adobe’s place as one of the SVLG 75, and the group’s opposition to the Giants’ continued roadblocks of the A’s efforts to move south. Perhaps Adobe and the A’s have already had discussions about how to move forward. The loss of redevelopment has meant the death of publicly-assisted development efforts. As for entirely private projects, there may be something there. Hopefully that something includes an Athletics Baseball museum, one worthy of the 112 years (and counting) of the club’s legacy.
P.S. – I intend to keep writing and rallying support for an A’s museum until it comes to fruition, whether it’s in San Jose, Oakland, or Timbuktu. The next post will about what should be in such a museum, so save any comments about content for that post. Thanks.
P.P.S. – Yes, I’m aware of the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society and Museum. There should be some way to partner with those folks. If you know of a site that would fulfill this purpose in Oakland and is within walking distance of one of the downtown/JLS ballpark sites, I’d like to write about it.