An Endangered Icon
"Historical buildings make a city more interesting. Keep our city interesting."
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San Jose’s beloved landmark Diridon Station was built in 1935 as the crown jewel of the Southern Pacific Railroad’s San Francisco-San Jose line. Designed by noted architect John H. Christie, the depot and surrounding support structures were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, designated a San Jose City Landmark in 1994, and are protected by a legally-binding preservation covenant with the South Bay Historical Railroad Society. Each of these designations is intended to ensure that the historic station’s character-defining features are protected from demolition or adverse alteration, and that the landmark structure remains an integral part of San Jose’s urban fabric for current and future generations.
Despite these intended protections, the station nevertheless faces a real threat of demolition under the current Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP), approved by the City of San Jose in May 2021, and the in-progress Diridon Integrated Station Concept (DISC) Plan. More than three years into the current "comprehensive" planning process for planned station expansion, neither plan includes any clear discussion of the historic station's fate nor any acknowledgement that its preservation should be a guiding principle. This is simply unacceptable.
While PAC*SJ acknowledges that significant future station expansion is necessary, we believe that this modernization can and must include preservation and adaptive reuse of the existing historic station structure. This effort will obviously require careful planning and close coordination with other elements of the DISC and DSAP plans, and must be planned in tandem with these other elements— not after these other elements are already set in stone.
Preservation and adaptive reuse of historic train stations have become bedrock strategies for urban redevelopment and place-making efforts in towns and cities across the globe. Even today's most celebrated new multi-modal transit centers, including Denver’s ultra-modern and award-winning Union Station, have included the preservation of historic resources as fundamental elements of their design. San Jose should demand nothing less for Diridon Station, and must be proactive, comprehensive, and publicly-transparent in its planning efforts to do so.