Saint James Park | Case Study

St James Park   |  Case Study

San Jose | California

St. James Park is nearly seven acres in downtown San Jose, California. When noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted devised a pattern of pathways within the park, it took its place as a Victorian park and a fixture of civic and community activity, surrounded by churches and city buildings. In 1977 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places and listed as a San Jose landmark.

Over time, the site became rundown, unfocused, bifurcated by traffic, suffering from noise pollution and burdened by buildings that obscured its beauty. It functioned mainly as a walkthrough; only a few public events were taking 1990s, but were limited by the park’s condition and concerns about safety and homelessness.

In 2001, MJMMG completed the St. James Park Programming & Management Plan, parts of which have been implemented by the San Jose’s Department of Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Services. The park continues to be transformed by events, programming and structural improvements, and the commitment of the city, neighborhood organizations and the downtown business association. Last year, the St. James Park Master Plan of 2002, which lacked funding until now, began moving forward to improve the park’s design and buildings.

Challenges
  • Create recommendations to transform a historic, but underutilized and challenged public space, from a pass-through location to a civic focal point.
  • Recommend a new management approach to maintain and program the park.
  • Identify sustainable ways to activate the park for people who live, work and visit through redesign, programming and ongoing management.
  • Address issues of homelessness, panhandling, safety and cleanliness.
Services Delivered
MJMMG was contracted by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to create the St. James Park Programming & Management Plan. This work included an analysis to inform its redesign, new programing and management, including extensive collaboration with the community about their vision for its future. Essential to this process, was creating designs and programs that maintain its historic integrity. This plan included two major segments: one for programming and another for management.
The Programming Plan included:
  • Analysis of existing programs and events.
  • Current and potential users.
  • Park program recommendations for: new café’s; permanent bathrooms; interactive water features; a playground; street closure; stage placement and sound engineering recommendations; event recommendations—free events that are alcohol free; logistics for storage, loading zones, cooking areas, vendor sites, chairs, impromptu events; lighting, power and sound; and signage.
The Management Plan included recommendations for:
  • Park governance and overall management.
  • Amending the Park Code for shopping carts, permits, event fees, event scheduling, and management roles, to name a few elements.
  • Coordination with community members and local businesses, including establishing a Policy Advisory Committee.
  • Security and safety measures, such as: improving designs to allow for clear lines of site; ambassador patrol staff; dispatch system to link the park to the local police precinct; safety restrictions during events and for vendors.
  • Maintenance based on sustainable environmental stewardship, such as waste reduction; energy efficiency; water conservation; pest management and recycling programs.
  • Training programs for those responsible for the management, maintenance and security of the park.

“MJMMG provided vital input into developing a sustainable business plan for our public space. ”

Christopher “Kit” Goldsbury | Silver Ventures

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Results
  • The San Jose Parks and Recreation Department adopted several recommendations presented in MJMMG’s St. James Park Programming & Management Plan in 2001. A lack of funding stalled efforts to implement plans. However, as the economy improves, there is a renewed effort underway to transform the site into a more delightful place open to a diversity of people and programs.
  • Today, tens of thousands of people visit annually. There have been programs and events ranging from a blues festival, Olympic viewing parties, an outdoor summer cinema and “A Day in the Park,” with food trucks, live music and raffles. With this activation, the future of St. James Park continues to improve. Services.

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