Pellier Park is on its Way to Downtown San Jose

Despite being one of the oldest cities in California, downtown San Jose’s story is still unfolding. The SWA San Francisco Master Plan boasts three new parks coming to the neighborhood at the foot of 188 West St James. Pellier, North San Pedro, and Bassett Parks are exciting additions to downtown San Jose and each brings its own strong identity.


North San Pedro Park is the neighborhood’s outdoor living room. As the largest of the three, it is the natural place for bigger community gatherings at the flexible lawn and designated pop-up areas.


Bassett Park is the most playful and vibrant. Located under the Coleman Avenue overpass and requiring lots of activation, it will be a thriving urban space with fitness and play options for all neighbors.


You’ll find the most passive of the three across the street from the 188 West St James West Lobby. Pellier Park is located at the corner of West St James and Terraine Street. The park, which draws its design inspiration rooted in its agricultural history tied to the plum, will be a place for relaxation and respite with a grove of flowering trees, sloped lawns, and lounge seating with ottomans. Guests will enjoy a storytelling wall and will be able to gather around a community table featuring under lighting which will fill the grove with a soft, purple glow at dusk. The SWA San Francisco Master Plan shares all the conceptual details on Pellier Park as well as the site’s interesting history:


Pellier Park has historical significance as the site of City Gardens, the original nursery established by Louis Pellier, which is an Historical Landmark. Louis Pellier left his home in France for the California in 1847 hoping to join in the riches of the gold rush. His hopes ran dry as the back-breaking work of mining proved difficult and unsuccessful, so he and his partner Giacomo Yocco headed to San Francisco where he soon realized that fruit being sold for $1 proved more of a fortune than gold. Louis, a horticulturist, headed south to the fertile lands of San Jose in early summer of 1850 and with his partner, Yocco, bought property in the northwestern area of town.


By 1855 Pellier owned 12 acres and had established the City Gardens Nursery, located at the current site of Pellier Park. Louis realized the need for a sturdier stock of prune and sent his brother Pierre back to France to obtain scions of the Petite Prune d’Agen. Pierre returned in the winter of 1854 with prune, peach, pear, apple, cherry, and grape cuttings that were then grafted onto native fruit stock. Lore has it that the scions were stuck in potatoes and then packed in straw and brought over in trunks to protect them from their long journey. Pellier is credited as a founder of the prune industry throughout the valley with the introduction of the Petite d’Agen French prune. In 1977 the park was dedicated as part of San Jose’s 200th birthday and open to the public.


Because of Louis and Pierre, in 2018 California bearing acreage is estimated at 44,000 acres and produces 96% of the prunes in the U.S., and historically has supplied 70% of the prunes worldwide. The park was identified through public comment and input as a space that honors the historical significance of Louis Pellier’s contribution to agriculture in the Santa Clara Valley.


The conceptual design is described as “Plum-scape”. The concept behind Plum-scape is that the plum provides the outline that shapes the spaces within the design. The central “pit” area is the space where the community can gather around a common table and get to know each other, the circulation and seating areas around the center act as the “flesh” of the design, and the tree lined berms form the “skin” providing a protective barrier against the urban setting.


The characteristic softness at Pellier is created by layering site elements and plant materials. The inspiration for the design of Pellier Park came from the shape of the prune itself and reflected in the way materials are used in Pellier Park. Hardscape materials are simple yet evoke the patterns created by agricultural practices through the layout of jointing and the orientation of linear pavers. The layering of planting starts with the sloped lawn and grows in height moving out from the center of the park. The understory, shade trees, and the existing palm trees at the street edge create a multi-layered buffer for the space while the drift of lower flowering trees runs through the middle of the park.


The different furnishing elements in the park allow for a range and flexibility of uses. The majority is fixed including the storytelling wall, signage, lighting, community table, and cube seats but interspersed are the lounge chairs and ottomans that add a flexible, movable option.


Buffered on either side by the rows of understory and shade trees, the entry court welcomes visitors into the park with its signage and opportunities for seating. The drift of flowering trees begins at this corner and draws people into the core of the park and through to the paseo. The paseo runs from north to south connecting Devine and West St. James Street. These secondary entrances are equally important for circulation in the park and feature the plaques commemorating Pellier Park as a historic site.


At the very center of Pellier Park is the community grove. Anchored by the community table, this grove of flowering trees creates a calm, intimate gathering place for neighbors to come together. The table is designed with two heights to encourage adults and children alike while also providing an accessible area for wheelchairs. Viewed from above, this is the “pit” of the fruit with the concrete unit pavers floating in the field of concrete and highlighted by the custom grafting lights laid out in a grid around the space.


Highlighting the importance of the community grove as the central gathering place in the park, custom light fixtures are located around the table area to provide subtle evening lighting. The inspiration for the lights is the process of grafting that was used to originally graft the French prune clipping onto the native rootstock. The custom bar-height community table will also feature under lighting to fill the grove with a soft, purple glow and make it a comfortable gathering place at dusk.


It’s all at your fingertips. In a region renowned for always asking what’s next, 188 West St James offers a fresh standard of luxury—the luxury to define your own direction. Extraordinarily connected to downtown San Jose, here is a home designed to enhance every facet of your dynamic lifestyle, from the most ambitious bouts of inspiration to well-deserved repose; where you’re empowered to chase your own chosen future and pioneer a whole new set of priorities entirely your own. After all, life is what you make of it. Make yours here.

Image credit: Artist Conceptual by SWA San Francisco