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Parking garage roof could become downtown San Jose gathering spot

Site plan for San Pedro Square Garage roof deck conversion to a people deck with gathering areas and performance sites, concept. An “immersive community” of gathering areas, performance venues, and food centers could sprout atop a downtown San Jose parking garage, under a concept sketched out by a top architectural and design firm. Gensler


SAN JOSE — An “immersive community” of gathering areas, performance venues, and food centers could sprout atop a downtown San Jose parking garage, under a concept sketched out by a top architectural and design firm.

The roof deck of San Pedro Square Garage could become a “people deck” and create new centers of activity in downtown San Jose, said executives with Gensler, the design firm that crafted the idea.

Activities and gathering areas on the roof of the downtown San Jose garage at San Pedro Square. // Gensler

“This is a large underutilized parking deck and the idea is to turn it into a people deck,” said Peter Weingarten, a principal and managing director with Gensler’s San Jose office.

The multi-level parking garage fronts on North San Pedro Street, West St. John Street, and North Market Street and is adjacent to the San Pedro Square restaurant, bar, entertainment, and nightlife area.

“This is potentially a really fun venue to activate,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “It’s great because it’s open on all sides. But you do have some buildings nearby that help frame the site.”

The garage serves a useful function as a parking spot for busy parts of downtown San Jose. Yet on three of its sides, the garage simply presents concrete walls that also divide San Pedro Square from the key thoroughfare of Market Street.

“We want to change this from being a barrier to being a bridge between Market Street and San Pedro Square,” Weingarten said. “The idea is to transform this space and give it a greater purpose and create greater connectivity.”

The garage could serve as a new “urban bridge” in downtown San Jose, Gensler stated in a 32-page presentation that details its concepts and ideas for a reimagined roof deck.

Street-level view of San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose, looking south, with the garage on the left side, concept. // Gensler

At present the roof deck is already being used for an array of activities, especially with the dearth of parking trips throughout the Bay Area and the South Bay as one of the side effects of coronavirus-linked business shutdowns.

Photoshoots, meetings, filming, dancing, exercising, biking, and just hanging out are among the popular current activities for the garage roof deck, according to Gensler.

A ground-floor section of the San Pedro Square parking garage has already been enlivened through a Gensler-crafted project.

About two years ago, Gensler was the driving force behind “Moment,” an effort that created four popup retailers in parking spaces on the San Pedro Square side of the garage.

Social and gathering space atop San Pedro Square Parking Garage in downtown San Jose, aerial view, concept. // Gensler

The rooftop endeavor is being dubbed “Moment 2.0” by Gensler.

People would be able to create, socialize, shelter, unwind, stroll, interact, picnic, dog walk, play, and exercise on the rooftop.

“There has to be a payoff for people when they get to the roof, so we could introduce a lot of meaningful and diverse programs, we could have food trucks that would create an elevated food court,” Weingarten said. “You could have a little theater up there.”

The activated roof would also feature varied elevations in the form of tiny hills or dips.

“The changes in topography can bring excitement and more interest,” Weingarten said. “That also allows us to create outdoor rooms that range from quiet to more of a ruckus.”

Gathering spaces and activities atop San Pedro Square Garage in downtown San Jose, concept. // Gensler

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