An Iconic Open Space for San Jose
The Valley is an icon that is shaped by the aspirational values of the 21st century. Situated in the center of the contemporary cradle of innovation, the twin peaks of The Valley are the urban landmarks that San Jose’s skyline lacks.
The Valley is a critical asset to the local community that re-frames how residents interact with the city’s urban fabric, its history, its natural amenities, and with each other. Together, it represents the dynamic spirit of the people of San Jose and provides them with a platform to view their city in a way that they have never been able to before.
The Valley is comprised of two landforms emerging from the eastern and western edges of Arena Green. Named after prominent women leaders from San Jose’s civic history, Vice Mayor Iola Williams and Mayor Janet Gray Hayes, Mount Iola and Hayes Hill provide new space for gathering, active leisure, biodiversity, and the sharing of history and art. Currently, Arena Green feels both isolated and disjointed. By adding verticality, visitors will feel a much stronger connection to other parts of the park as well as the surrounding city.
Situated directly across from the SAP Center, Hayes Hill provides a marquee attraction for people of all ages. The western portion of the Valley is named after Janet Gray Hayes, former mayor of San Jose and the first female mayor of a major US city. Hayes Hill represents Mayor Hayes’ love of the outdoors by creating a sloped lawn that can be enjoyed by anyone. The slope is divided into individual patches of lawn by a network of chutes and ladders which form the best playground you’ve ever seen. Families can post up for a picnic while kids climb up and slide down the play features, allowing them to constantly move up and down the hill. On the underside of the structure, a new public indoor hall provides space for local stores and food vendors and connects Arena Green with the year-round activities of the neighboring SAP Center.
Named after Iola Williams, San Jose’s first black City Council member, Franklin McKinley School District board member, and Vice Mayor, Mount Iola provides visitors the opportunity to hike to the top of the city. Planned around an ADA accessible path that crisscrosses the slope, Mount Iola brings the California hiking experience to the heart of downtown San Jose, making the staple Northern Californian pastime accessible all. Hikers ascend through a series of California’s iconic landscapes and the rich variety of plant life that thrives at different elevations. Along their way, visitors may rest at one of several lookout balconies, from where they may experience the hanging installation art and athletic courts which take advantage of the structure’s underside to provide a contrasting space of activity and culture. At the summit, visitors are welcomed by immediate views of downtown San Jose, where Iola Williams worked to improve the lives of all San Jose residents, regardless of race, sex, or religion.
A Park for the People
Everyone deserves access to healthy and inclusive public spaces, but the COVID pandemic has highlighted that access is not attainable for many. Arena Green’s central location, connections to public transportation and roads, and adjacency to major urban nodes allows The Valley to fill a need for a must-see attraction downtown. Instead of simply using the existing park as a site, it reimagines what Arena Green could be as a public open space. Currently, Arena Green lacks a sense of cohesion and its many features remain socially and physically disconnected. In establishing hills on either side of the Guadalupe River, the project refocuses the park towards the water at the park’s center. By lifting up the ground to form either slope, the Valley also provides quality facilities fitting the energy and growth of Downtown San Jose.
Fundamental to the proposal is that Arena Green’s existing facilities do not have to be removed. Instead, we can improve what exists in the park by relocating bathrooms and commercial space under Hayes Hill, creating a more active street in front of the SAP Center. Simultaneously, lifting up the ground at Mount Iola allows for keeping the athletic amenities that bring people together- now protected by the structure above so that the community may play rain or shine. Additionally, the project advocates that these covered spaces should provide improved amenities such as public washrooms and shower facilities for the homeless and vulnerable members of the community who currently rely on Arena Green.