Developer James Lifshutz envisions apartments, live-work units and retail at “gateway to Mission San José”


Local developer James Lifshutz plans to redevelop approximately 17 acres at a south-side intersection near Mission San José with a mix of apartments, live-work units and commercial space.

The properties he owns south of East Southcross Boulevard, on both sides of Roosevelt Avenue, are a mix of vacant land, industrial businesses, and a house that Lifshutz plans to renovate. They are partly lined with single-family homes and apartments.

“I drive this stretch of Roosevelt every day like you do, and I got used to it,” Lifshutz told residents at a meeting in March. “But I think we can do better…it’s a barren stretch of highway and our project will convert it into an active hub.”

Neighbors have mixed opinions about the plans.

Concept sketches presented to the Mission San José Neighborhood Association include buildings of up to three stories with approximately 360 apartments, 15 live-work units and 20,000 square feet of retail space interspersed with landscaped plazas.

Direct work units include space for a business, such as a studio or store, as well as living quarters.

The development would be a “destination” for residents as well as tourists visiting the missions, Lifshutz said. The site is approximately 2.5 km south of Mission Concepción and approximately 1.5 km north of Mission San José.

Lifshutz said he would like many storefronts to be occupied by local businesses, which could include food and beverage operators.

He previously planned to partner with national multi-family developer NRP Group, but is now working with Mission DG, a local property development company. He also hired Alamo Architects.

Support, concerns

At meetings in March and April, some residents said the development would help attract more traffic to struggling neighboring businesses while providing the neighborhood with more amenities.

Others have expressed concern that long-time residents will be forced to move due to rising property taxes. Some are also concerned about the preservation of their culture.

“All these projects that are being proposed and all the improvements that have been made in this part of town, they all have a ripple effect. It starts off positive…eventually a lot of these people who have been here so long can’t pay the taxes,” said one participant.

“It’s good that you bring this to our neighborhood. I totally agree,” he added. “But it has a ripple effect.”

Lifshutz’s project is in its early stages, and he said specific uses, costs and layouts have not been determined.

He is seeking to have the properties rezoned, a request that is expected to be taken up by the city’s zoning commission in mid-May and by the city council in June. Harold’s Art & Framing, a former convenience store and buildings occupied by Las Palmas, Folklores Coffee House and other businesses are not part of the proposed development.

With the rezoning in hand, Alamo Architects would conduct historical and site analysis, meet with nearby residents, and create designs, which would require approval from the city’s History and Design Review Board. This should happen this summer and fall.

“That’s the start of the conversation,” Lifshutz said at the March meeting. “It is important to us that the project is in its place and is the right project with the right design.”

The support of the association

The neighborhood association polled residents and business owners to find out if they supported Lifshutz’s rezoning request.

The group listed 11 reasons to support it. Among them: rezoning would prevent businesses such as mechanic shops and motels from being built on the properties, the developer and architect are local, and the plan includes components that neighbors want, such as community plazas and live work units. He understood a reason not to support him: there are already too many apartments in the neighborhood.

Respondents were 90 to 12 in favor of rezoning, and the association provided a letter of support to the Zoning Commission, Chair Theresa Ybanez said.

She said she supports Lifshutz’s plan because it would boost local businesses and beautify the intersection. Ybanez said she asked about creating accommodation for the elderly in the ground floor apartments, which Lifshutz told her he was willing to include.

“I love this neighborhood and I think it’s time for improvement,” she said. “Where Mr. Lifshutz’s development plans to be is the front door of Mission San Jose and it looks awful.”

Many residents who opposed the Lifshutz project are descendants of Mission San José who fear being evicted from the neighborhood, Ybanez said. She plans to speak to county and state officials to find out if policy changes can be made to help families struggling with rising property taxes.

Some residents also fear the neighborhood will change, but change “is inevitable,” Ybanez said.

Previous projects

Under the city’s 2017 Bond Program, a section of Roosevelt Avenue from Interstate 90 to the 410 Southeast Loop is set to undergo improvements worth approximately $10.8 million. dollars.

Last fall, the neighborhood association fought Lifshutz’s proposal for housing on vacant lots on Huizar Street south of Mission San José. Residents said it would be too close to the mission and not appropriate next to a World Heritage Site.

Ybanez said Lifshutz then launched a warehouse, which neighbors also objected to. Lifshutz said he wasn’t considering a warehouse but was trying to figure out what kind of project they wouldn’t oppose.

“All I try to do is build high quality residences in my neighborhood. I had not anticipated the degree of opposition and strong emotion from my neighbours,” he said in a statement in October. “Although I think my project is the best use for this location, I have postponed the matter for the time being.”

Lifshutz owns the Blue Star Arts Complex, partnered with NRP Group to build The Flats at Big Tex apartments and has converted an industrial building at 2450 Roosevelt Avenue into apartments, some of which are live-work units.

He also owns land around Hot Wells Park and is working on plans for a spa. Last summer he bought nearly 4.6 acres at 421 Roosevelt Avenue near Roosevelt Park.


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