It's All Happening Downtown in California's Urban Centers
By Janet Fullwood, Dani Heinemeyer and Valli Herman
California Meetings + Events
California’s varied downtown areas are thriving. Here’s a look at the urban renaissance:
An Expanded and Updated Convention Center Anchors the City’s Vital Core
San Jose street life
Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose has transformed into an incubator for not only technology, but also arts and cultural experiences. The Street Life Project, launched in 2014, serves as a 10-year roadmap for pedestrian and public art improvements. It’s bringing more vibrancy to the city’s downtown core through creative placemaking projects, activities and events that engage residents and visitors in community life. “Our hallmark projects include murals, painted crosswalks, a vacant lot we converted into a temporary dog park and creating retail incubator spaces for San Jose makers and entrepreneurs,” says Jason Su, street life manager at the San Jose Downtown Association. “It’s a lot of small urban interventions that are coming together to make a big impact.”
The result is a slew of new art galleries, restaurants, craft breweries, and wine tasting rooms making their debut downtown. The recently opened 450-square-foot Seeing Things art gallery is available for groups to rent for small events. The San Pedro Square Market, a lively dining hall-style food market, is the perfect communal meeting space for foodies. And if you’re willing to travel a little outside downtown, San Jose’s diverse cultural neighborhoods like Little Italy, Japantown and Little Saigon offer incredible dining options, including Little Portugal’s Michelin-starred Adega Restaurant—the first Michelin-starred restaurant in San Jose.
San Jose has also expanded its hotel rooms for the first time in seven years with the February 2017 opening of downtown’s new AC Hotel by Marriott. The hotel features 210 guest rooms and 6,500 square feet of meeting and event space, accommodating up to 100 people in its largest space. Downtown will also see the opening of the boutique 44-room Hotel Clariana this spring. However, “the crowning moment from a meetings standpoint was the expansion of our convention center,” says Kyle Schatzel, communications manager at Team San Jose. “It’s got floor-to-ceiling windows with beautiful views of downtown and is a great addition to the event space we offer.” The San Jose McEnery Convention Center’s $130 million renovation and expansion added 125,000 square feet of additional flexible ballroom and meeting room space, increasing the facility’s usable space to 372,000 square feet. The convention center is connected to two hotels downtown and within short walking distance of many more.