SAN JOSE-The San Jose City Council is unanimous in its mission to preserve an aging Italian neighborhood despite objections from a group of landowners who would rather see it transformed into office space. The Council agreed to allow the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to purchase the remaining properties in the River Street Historic District between Julian and West St. John streets to complete the mission, which is expected to cost around $3.7 million.

Barry Swenson Builder is restoring the 19th century neighborhood that contains nine structures, three of which it has already leased for office space at $2.50 a month per sf. In all, the builder will have more than 25,000-sf to lease. The city hopes that the completed project – which should be done in two years – will include coffee shops, in-line skate rental stores and other businesses that would be attractive to park visitors.

In September, the City Council expanded the historic district to include eight more homes, including seven owned by a partnership represented by Los Altos investor Murlin Vellequette. Vellequette objected to the plan, saying he wanted to build office space on the sites. Saying the limited partnership – comprised of 94 people who had been waiting a decade to either build on the site or for the city to buy them out – did not have the necessary capital to renovate the homes, Vellequette offered to sell the properties to the city for $3.7 million.

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