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San Jose’s “coolness factor” is raised – the opening of Midtown Arts Mercantile


Last night we celebrated the grand opening of The Midtown Arts Mercantile project.  The 40,000 square foot building at 430 Lincoln Avenue has a 98-year history deeply rooted in the canning and agricultural history of San Jose.

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San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Chase Swenson cut the ceremonial ribbon for Midtown Arts Mercantile’s opening.

Mayor Sam Liccardo presided, and was enthused by the building’s combination of artisanal tenants, thoughtful historical preservation and the injection of excitement into an under-utilized part of town. To applause from the 100+ residents, media and dignitaries, he noted that the renovated building had  ”raised San Jose’s coolness factor by a couple of notches!”

More than two and half years ago, the San Jose Office of Economic Development team of Kim Walesh, Nanci Klein, and Michelle Thong walked through the building with SWENSON staff, to talk about this building’s potential. At that time, the building’s most recent use was a furniture warehouse, and presented a bland and uninviting face to Lincoln Avenue. Talking through what could be with Economic Development staff helped SWENSON gain confidence in pursuing their concept for a maker space for San Jose artisans, where their crafts could also be sold and savored.

Over the past year, I was able to work with SWENSON, helping this vision become reality by assisting with the City of San Jose’s review of the project. The authentic industrial building has been restored and refurbished to allow for artisanal manufacturing and retail sales.

Although it has been extensively rehabilitated and upgraded inside and out, the building still evokes its many uses over the past century.

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An early plan for the building shows it was next to the San Martin vineyards

The building was first used for Salsina Packing and Canning Company, where tomatoes grown in local fields were canned into tomato sauce from 1918 to 1922. The building was later used by the Virden Company for canning peaches, which were sold under the well-known Campfire label until 1949.  Until 1970, the San Martín winery used it to warehouse and distribute wine produced locally.

Historical elements that SWENSON retained include the “sawtooth roof” – making all the windows fully functional allows in lots of light and fresh air. And that patina on the wood and metal accents throughout that isn’t faux, but built up from years of use as a real industrial building.

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Midtown Arts Mercantile – the “sawtooth” roof with functional windows.

A third of the building’s square footage has already been leased to anchors that are today’s San Jose makers—Chromatic Coffee, Hapa’s Brewing, Good Karma Bikes, and Terra Amico Studio.  There’s room for many more makers to join this impressive bunch and get brick and mortar exposure in a unique setting.

Help get the word out on these available spaces. Come as a patron to scout for refurbished bikes or custom reclaimed furniture. There’s no doubt that the Midtown Arts Mercantile will also be the perfect place to  browse, shop, people-watch and enjoy a cup of coffee or a pint of beer!

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From left, SWENSON’s Chris Hagen and Forrest Cerrato, project managers for the Midtown Arts Mercantile rehabilitation.