Circle of Palms

Market Street and San Fernando
San Jose, CA

Submitted by: alison novak

Sweeping plaza between art museum, first-class hotel, and Class A office tower.

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Why It Works

A beautifully landscaped plaza including a circle of palm trees that surround an in-laid City Seal. There are three cafes spilling out onto the plaza and the museum fronts the plaza with steps the length of the building. The plaza is very large--maybe 40,000 square feet? For many years it was a lovely, wind-swept and quiet plaza. This summer, the Redevelopment Agency got together with the three cafes and offered them over 300 chairs, 30 umbrellas, and 70 tables in exchange for a maintenance agreement. The Agency also provides daily entertainment through its public space programming project. The plaza is also the site of an outdoor cinema program called "Gypsy Cinema" and a dance program called "Lindy in the Palms".

What Makes Circle of Palms a Great Place?

It connects an office development to the west with the downtown retail and restaurants. It is adjacent to downtown destinations. People cross through it as a pleasant short cut away from traffic. People frequently come here during lunch to enjoy San Jose's wonderful weather. It is most accessible by foot, though a passenger loading zone is located along one side, and light rail is less than a block away. It is beautifully paved and bright.

The space is gorgeous and now that it is filled with furniture, the people have come. Seating choices include the furniture, the steps at the museum, and the ledges of a flower garden. It is spotlessly clean and maintained daily. Police on horseback frequently patrol through the area and since the uses surrounding the park differ in peak hours, there is always at least one building that is active.

People regularly use the space for lunching and reading. It is also used for an outdoor cinema program (we put up an enormous screen and movie-lovers crowd around in their own lawn chairs) and a dancing, among other programs. Last week there was a "car art" exhibit and the plaza was filled with people of all ages.

I meet friends here, as do others. It is a friendly space with a wide range of ages and ethnicities. However, because Downtown is very, very quiet on the weekends, fewer people use it then.

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