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.

The corner of West Santa Clara and Delmas, Adobe HQ in background right

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.

Closeup of building highlights its mix of styles

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).

Looking across the Guadalupe River towards the SJWC building

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.

Location of Adobe/SJWC properties in relation to Cisco Field site and other nearby landmarks

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.

Skyline view from San Fernando light rail station at sunset

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.

33 thoughts on “A pretty cool museum idea

  1. If the A’s go to San Jose, I really hope the club does an over the top attempt at recognizing all of the historical Oakland years. For example, I hope they don’t take “Oakland” off of the 4 WS flags in the outfield or try to wash away all traces of the team’s East Bay roots. A large Oakland section in a museum would be great as well.

  2. Ah, sorry, didn’t see the p.s.

  3. @eb – No problem, it came to mind a few minutes after the post. Also, if you have an idea for a similar building reuse situation in Oakland, I’m all ears. I’d like to devote a post to that as well.

  4. Eb, I will wait for the content piece to talk about what should go inside in any sort of specific way, but I will say that I 1000% agree that it should encompass the entire history of the A’s with special attention to the many successful years in Oakland (even if it isn’t in Oakland).

  5. ML, as usual you are on point. Not much to add.

  6. theres Abode Systems signs and ads ALL over AT&T park. theyre obviously giving the giants a lot of money and giants are really boasting that sponsorship to make sure that the A’s know that Adobe is sponsoring them. This season i have seen a ton of san jose oriented stuff at giants games. theyre really trying to re-assert their dominance over that territory. they do this thing where they have an “honorary groundskeeper” who takes off 2nd base and replaces it. 7 out of 10 times the person they use for that is from the south bay or san jose itself. coincidence? i think not. i think theyre choosing and handpicking people from down there to really give the illusion that they have a huge fan base down there (which is not as big as you think but its not small). theyre all the sudden selling san jose giants hats at their games. why do you think that is? and again, lots of adobe sponsorship signs out there. my point is that the giants are working really hard to show their dominance in san jose whether its true or not.

  7. In my opinion, the A’s sure do seem to do a relatively poor job at celebrating their past. Aside from the World Series flags, tarps (yes, you heard me right), and promo nights, there isn’t much in ways of a permanent display showcasing A’s history. Those past 112 years seem to get lost amongst all the on and off-the-field woes that are plaguing the team today. For a franchise that is just as storied and rich in history as the Yankees and Red Sox, its unfortunate that there isn’t some sort of proper commemorative space or museum that currently exists to remind us of our past glory and instill enthusiasm and hope into the fanbase.

    Sorry for getting a bit poetic there, but I’m glad to see someone rallying support for an A’s museum. Many kudos to you ML, as well as for the usual superb work you do for this site.

  8. As for possible Oakland sites for a museum, what about the former Barnes & Noble at Jack London Square? Its not exactly building reuse in the same vein as the SJWC Building, but its a start. 🙂

  9. @slo_town – That is an incredible site! I remember walking by it a long time ago and I was very curious about it. It looked expensive to lease, though that’s not really an issue at this point.

  10. Yeah, that building is awesome. I love to take my girls on the Ferry over to Embarcadero. We walk by that building and I always think “When I am running m own company, we shall be in there.”

  11. Has that building ever been occupied? It’s always been empty as far as I can recall; used to think it was a shame such a pretty building in an even prettier place could sit unused for so long.

  12. At least half of the building’s office space is occupied by the Rogers Family Foundation, they purchased the building last summer. Like a lot of Jack London Square, the office space is almost fully leased while retail lags behind. I believe I recently read that the office space is around 95% leased.

  13. Would it be a slap in the face to have the museum in Oakland even if the team moves to SJ? I assume that most people favoring the move are already fans of the Oakland A’s and do cherish the franchise history there. Obviously it could be perceived as cheap consolation, though.

  14. Though slightly off topic, I secretly wish that Wolff and Fischer are quietly buying up adjoining chunks of property in Alameda County under assumed names similar to what Walt Disney did in Central Florida so that they can spring a “Gotcha” on everyone and start building in the current territory. End the frustration with the territorial rights and just start building. Both come pit smelling like roses. And yes, enough land for a ballpark AND museum. One can only wish.

  15. SJWC would be an awesome site- like LW suggestion that maybe JF would be interested in developing a sports museum- not sure how much square footage is needed but including the Sharks and Earthquakes make forma cool environment- put a restaurant/bar with outdoor seating along the Guadalupe and it would be an awesome fit for,the area-

  16. I have seen the San Jose Water Company building walking from a downtown parking structure to a show at the HP Pavilion. The building certainly grabs one’s attention.
    Not sure if the museum makes much sense, though, as it wouldn’t be much of a money maker, and a new ballpark will already put the team $400 – $500 million in debt.

  17. If a separate, fully-dedicated museum is not appealing to Wolff/Fisher, I hope that they would at least incorporate some sort of permanent commemorative space into the design of the new ballpark, be it in Oakland or SJ. Perhaps something analogous to Monument Park at Yankee Stadium, or even “simple” things such as statues, plaques, informational signs, or murals around the park chronicling 100+ years of Athletics baseball. Those kinds of things I think would still be a vast improvement to what we have now with just the flags and the tarp.

  18. Several years ago there was a traveling Baseball HOF exhibit that was featured at the Oakland Museum of California, and in that exhibit they had a large wing dedicated to the Oakland Athletics WS championship teams of 72-74, and 89. In fact, part of that exhibit found its way to the East Side club during one homestand at the Coliseum. It sure would be great if something like that was a perminent fixture, if not in an Oakland based museum, at least somewhere in the ballpark (including the existing coliseum). The Royals were able to build a musum in their renovated ball park. Even Seattle has a “HOF” exhibit in their park (and Seattle doesn’t have a very successful and rich history). I don’t buy this bologna about “not enough space” – gimme a break

  19. I like the museum idea but have a hard time believing that a museum separate from the ballpark would get enough traffic to be viable.
    The A’s longstanding failure to celebrate the franchise’s history needs to be addressed. I wonder if it stems from the boom-and-bust pattern that has characterized the Athletics in both Philadelphia and Oakland probably more than any other major league club. The A’s under Connie Mack were the AL’s elite team through 1914, then had the original 97 Marlins-style firesale and became an embarrassment for the next decade. Mack then built another superpower in the late 20s/early 30s, dominating the Ruth/Gehrig Yankees and nearly becoming the first team to win 3 straight World Series.
    But then another fire sale, and 20 plus years of being the worst team in the AL, both on the field and at the gate. Then a dozen or so years in KC as a disgraceful Yankee farm team. Then Finley built his sup
    dynasty but broke completely with the franchise’s past — he got rid of the traditional blue and white team colors, the elephant, and even the name Athletics. But Finley was also a world class jerk — so all the victories on the field weren’t enough to build a fan base. When Finley’s dynasty was done, the A’s went straight to 108 loss seasons with 300K annual attendance and games broadcast on an amateur college radio station.
    So the A’s probably have struggled with their history because it’s so weird. No stretches of 20 years A’s a solid contender. It’s all been Mount Everest or Death Valley.

  20. I have no problem with the museum being separate. To help drive traffic there, you set aside a little area or two around the stadium for a couple glass cases and plaques, and rotate some items every so often.

  21. with the pics of cisco field in sj, i’d guess one of those brown brick building wrapping around the park would serve in some fashion as a a’s hof.

    OT but rat face aka the scum bucket who runs the team across the bay was on 95.7 today. frankly don’t have the stomach to listen to the interview so if those who have the will power to, you could summarize it here.

  22. @letsgoas; I can’t stomach listening to him either. A summary would be much appreciated. I’m sure Tierney and/or Davis didn’t have the balls to attempt to make him answer the tough questions re: A’s to SJ. Baer is a disgrace to Cal alums world wide.

  23. Okay, some craziness coming in here.

    Looking at the overhead image, if you delete Delmas Avenue, then it looks like the Adobe I and Adobe II site combined would be large enough (though admittedly a cozy fit) for a ballpark. Just place home plate down in the lower left corner near where the San Fernando VTA line crosses Los Gatos Creek, and…???

    Must. Put. Down. The Pipe.

  24. ^^^^^^^^^^ Adobe Field?

  25. ML adresses that above- we don’t need a site- there already is a great one- we need a comish with balls to move things forward

  26. Did anyone hear Larry Bear yesterday on the game 95.7 ? Baer seems to indicate that BS and the exec group will cast the final vote or maybe the G’s are just waiting for the decison then sue if it does not go their way.

  27. re: Gag Order. We will see when Lew is interviewed this week, wont we?

  28. OT: More than a week has passed since LW and DK met w/o a peep from JQ/DK since….hmmmmmm. :X

  29. I really don’t think this museum thing will work unless you have someone commit to paying for it long term. I’m on this blog and an A’s fan and I don’t even see myself going to it.

    Maybe we can just have an A’s Hall of Fame with plaques (like the BASHOF at SFO or the Giants have on the north wall of the park). It doesn’t take up any space and puts it where people will see it.

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