By John Ramos

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — The housing crisis has sent communities scrambling to increase their housing stock and now, developers are flocking to downtown San Jose where the activity at one intersection promises to transform the entire area.

At the corner of Santa Clara and Fourth Streets, right across from City Hall, a massive twin-tower apartment building is already under construction. And across the street from that, the Chevron gas station was just purchased by an investment development group called “Urban Catalyst.” They plan to build 250 housing units in a high rise building on the gas station site which is just steps from a future BART station. The price for the ¾ acre lot? More than $15 million.

“We like the proximity to City Hall, San Jose State University and also the proximity to the future BART station, which will be, you know, a hundred yards from here,” said Urban Catalyst partner, Josh Burroughs. “So, it’s the epitome of a transit-oriented development.”

But the same company that’s building the twin towers has also purchased the “4th Street Pizza Co.” building on the opposite corner and plans to build there as well.  That means within a few years, thousands of new residents will be living right next to City Hall.

“It’s going to be monumentally different,” Burroughs said. “There’s a lot happening downtown. Millions of square feet of office. We have new hotels coming online, we have dozens of new retailers, restaurants. We have hundreds of start-ups moving downtown.”

It will be a big change as the “gingerbread” of downtown’s Victorian buildings is replaced by glass and steel. And there are those who are not happy about it.

“It’s supposed to be for affordable housing to try to help get the homeless off the streets. I’ve been here all my life and it looks the same. They build for profit, not for humanitarian,” said San Jose resident Jamie Price. He says small businesses have already been priced out and the new buildings will do nothing to help the true victims of the housing crisis – the homeless.

“You know, we’re still dealing with 4,500 people. What are you going do with them when you build all this pretty stuff?” asked Price. “When you’re making downtown pretty again, what are you going to do with all these people that are still going to be here?”

It’s the great dilemma of our times: how to welcome thousands of new neighbors to an area without forcing the old ones out.

Urban Catalyst says it could take up to two years to get all the plans ironed out and another 24 to 30 months to complete construction. The gas station, which is one of only two in the entire downtown area, will be allowed to stay open until actual construction begins.

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