13 April 2007

San Jose Love Triangle

The Merc's ruffling feathers at Glass R2D2 in their attempts to get the pols to release information about negotiations between San Jose and Lew Wolff. Barry Witt's already gotten the crux of the story, what remains are - what else? - details. Mayor Chuck Reed would prefer to draft and release a report summarizing the discussions, while others want the MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the two parties and supporting documentation. In requesting the report, Reed cites the need for sensitivity while the parties are still in negotiation. The hot topic isn't so much the stadium at this point as the rezoning-entitlements deal that Wolff is pursuing in the Edenvale neighborhood (South San Jose).

Certainly some of the Merc's muckraking comes from the notion that they're trying to hold Reed up to the standard he created for himself when, during last year's mayoral campaign, he claimed to be the true plain-talking, "open government" candidate. The platform earned Reed a landslide victory, so Reed has to be careful to manage this situation carefully. The ramifications of a bad negotiation don't stop with the Quakes/SJSU stadium, they extend to Reed's plans for redevelopment in his old North San Jose stomping grounds as well.

Not to be ignored is SJSU, the entity that owns the land on which the new stadium will be built. Negotiations continue between them and the A's on revenue sharing, enough that University President Don Kassing came off sounding less than optimistic:
"I don't know if it's going to come together," Kassing said. "I say that not to be pessimistic, but I don't know. It would consume 40 acres approximately, so we would provide a parcel of land - they put a commercial activity on that land and then make money.
"So we provide an opportunity for them to make money by having a parcel of land. We don't donate it, it's our land, belongs to the State of Calif. - San Jose State, and we want a return on that land, and so far we haven't found it."
I sense this is just some poker table bluster. Kassing has every right to make sure SJSU gets a fair deal especially when dealing with a private wheeler-dealer like Wolff. But there has to be a recognition of two things:
  • The stadium may be the best chance for SJSU to get a modern facility, which should help its suddenly resurgent football program.
  • MLK Library II became hugely successful as a result of a necessary partnership between SJSU and San Jose, so there is a precedent for getting a modern facility built that doesn't jeopardize the integrity of the school. In fact, there's already an example of what the Quakes are pursuing in Carson, where the AEG-operated Home Depot Center sits on the Cal State-Dominguez Hills campus.
Practically speaking, people are getting excited a little too early in the process. Even if the city didn't disclose any details of their negotiations prior to Wolff's presentation, the public's still going to have every opportunity to scrutinize the project in its entirety, including the rezoning scheme and public benefits such as new soccer fields. I understand where all of the interested parties (including the Merc) are coming from. Still, everyone needs to chill.

There is one other quote from Kassing from the Spartan Daily article linked above:
"I can't tell you everything because I don't want to compromise the confidentiality of the conversations," Kassing said in a press conference on April 3. "But the Earthquakes, through a really creative idea of Lew Wolff's, would seek from the city the rezoning of a parcel of property … and change the zoning from commercial/industrial to residential. Apparently when you do that, the value goes way up… . That difference would be used to build the stadium."
The difference would be used to build the stadium? That sounds familiar...

Twins Show and Tell

After the Twins agreed to bridge the gap on the land price dispute for their downtown ballpark, they unveiled renderings of the 40,000-seat, open air stadium. The design is very much signature HOK, but unlike some of their more sprawling projects, they and local firm HGA were constrained by an 8-acre site. Somehow they managed to squeeze a million square feet into the plan, which from the planning standpoint is a marvel.

The exterior would look more original if the sketch didn't strongly evoke PETCO Park. Instead of PETCO's sandstone, the as yet unnamed/unsponsored Minneapolis ballpark will be clad in limestone.

This cross-section shows a good cantilever in the club level and a decent one in the terrace level. Notice how the loading area (yellow) is underneath the sidewalk adjacent to the ballpark.

This cross-section is of the left field seats. It's a two-level structure with an upper deck that lines up with the lower deck. There are also a couple of interesting quirks. The area between the "exterior" wall and the light rail station is so narrow that the ballpark's circulation ramp actually hangs over the sidewalk. They even managed to fit additional back-of-the-house facilities underneath the train station.

Here's the real kicker. You might not recognize it immediately, but there are three - count 'em - three parking garages on top of a major road. That's no ordinary street - it's Interstate 394, a spur that runs from the suburbs to downtown Minneapolis. If they are really planning to do this, they better save their pennies for the parking infrastructure. It will not be cheap.

Correction: The parking garages are already in place thanks to work completed as part of earlier projects. According to this link, Ramp A cost $64 million.