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New SJ High-Rise Preserves Old Diner's Mid-Century 'Googie' Architectural Style

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- A new high-rise housing complex in San Jose is breaking the mold for how developments can forge the future and still preserve the past.

"This is how historic architecture can sit side by side with new. It's not an either-or proposition," said Ben Leech of the San Jose Preservation Action Council.

The development will take over the site of a mid-century roadside diner at 2nd and San Salvador Streets. The building was first a Sambo's pancake house, then a Chinese restaurant called Bo Town.
Its iconic zigzag roofline and starlight lighting fixtures are a couple of hints of a unique architectural style.

"Buildings like this are called Googie, it's a design in the mid-century that emphasized quirkiness, sort of space age materials, zig zags, and you think Jetsons era, that's Googie," Leech said.

Not an official historical site, the building was set to be demolished to make way for a 29-story
residential high-rise. But then the developer, Westbank out of Canada, came back with an idea to save it -- sort of.

"Their plan is to remove the building, but then replace it in kind. So at the end of the
project, it's still what you see here."

Rebuilt from the ground up, the new building will also be a restaurant and the developer even plans to save the freestanding sign out front. The move is being praised and not just by preservationists.

"The fact that our developers are really considering what it means to preserve history while also making way for the future is really powerful," said Autumn Young of the San Jose Downtown Association.

The new high-rise will also add to the mix of old and new in the South First Street area which is already seeing a strong new influx of people, businesses, and energy as we come out of the pandemic.

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