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Arts School To Revitalize Blighted Properties In East San Jose

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A blighted block in East San Jose is about to get some badly needed attention from an arts group that wants to expand and redevelop the area.

The School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza wants to build performance and rehearsal spaces, a cafe, and a mental health clinic on the block where a row of vacant storefronts has been hit with vandalism and homeless encampments.

"We will be filling a building that's been vacant for seven or eight years," said Chris Esparza, one of the school's co-directors.

The site sits on the north side of Alum Rock Avenue at King Road, across the street from the school.

Esparza says the school has secured large financial grants from Santa Clara County and other supporters to begin the transformation which could revitalize the area. The mental health clinic will be run by Gardner Healthcare.

The redevelopment will also give a helping hand to the three small businesses already there.

"We're going to focus on economic development, community development and cultural development, which we do best," Esparza said.

The school sits in a neighborhood that was an epicenter for death and illness during the pandemic and the trauma that comes with it.

The plaza itself —busy again with meetings and performances — was a testing and vaccination site for the last two years.

"We need to fix some inequities that have existed and move forward and thrive," Esparza said.

Neighborhood reaction so far is positive even though some communities might say no to a mental health clinic moving in.

"I've had family with mental health problems, friends have had it. I know people who've committed suicide over it. So, any opportunity that we can help people is always a great idea," said Alvaro Perez, who lives in the neighborhood.

The School of Arts and Culture says if all goes well, a second redevelopment phase including housing could be in the future.

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