Changes on The Ave: Willow Glen's Lincoln Avenue

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The shops on Lincoln Avenue have never been flashy, and in contrast to Santana Row and even downtown Los Gatos it is quite tame.  The residents of Willow Glen are proud and protective of their strip and can be quite vigilant when it comes to new development because of the fear of change.

However, lately there have been a lot of businesses on the Ave that have not been able to survive, especially in this economic downturn.  I was surprised to hear that two businesses recently have thrown in the towel and will close:  Vin Santo Ristorante and Willow Glen Liquors.  I am especially saddened to hear Vin Santo is closing because this is where my husband proposed to me. 

Willow Glen Liquors who is looking to stay in business but relocate off Lincoln, always has a wonderful selection of wines and as my personal mission to support local retailers, I buy my wines here instead of the BevMo directly across the street. 

The Ave is all abuzz this holiday season with holiday shoppers and faithful local residents supporting Willow Glen businesses, but what is going to happen once this flurry of shopping is over, when the decorations are boxed up and the excitement of Christmas is over?

Here are the plans.

Changes to Lincoln Ave. in Willow Glen

The latest news on the Ave is that there are ambitious plans to build a public plaza at the corner of Willow Street and Lincoln, where Willow Glen Frozen Yogurt & Ice Cream Co. now sits.  The proposed plan calls for construction of a three-story building that will include ground-floor retail, 26,000 square feet of office space on two floors, and a two-story parking structure, in addition to the public plaza. 

If the plans are approved, the opening date will be in spring 2012.  Also on the agenda is the opening of grocer Fresh & Easy (AKA Tesco) on the corner of Minnesota and Bird Avenue, where Albertsons used to sit.  Fresh & Easy is also going to locate in the Almaden Plaza upon the departure of Safeway; the opening of these two grocers is on track for 2009.

Willow Glen Residents' Opinions

So, how do the local residents feel about these new changes?  As far as the Fresh & Easy grocery stores locating to Willow Glen, most are okay with this plan, however no one knows much about the British-based company.  The only concern is what has been reported in the news lately about Tesco, and what the quality of the food will be like. 

With the changes proposed for the Avenue, there are those that are very supportive about the plans to give Lincoln Avenue a badly needed facelift, and others who feel that the Avenue is fine the way that it is now, and do not want to see developers come in and ruin the look and feel of Willow Glen. 

Some people are very excited about the new plaza which will add an additional 150 new parking spaces, beautify the street and bring in new retailers.  With more retailers, Lincoln Avenue will bring in more business to Willow Glen, which will in effect be better for the economy of our town. 

On the flip-side, the nay-sayers are aggravated that more retailers equals more cars, more traffic, more development, and ultimately the demise of all history in town.  Another fear is that the older storefronts, such as Willow Glen Books, Hicklebees, the Thrift Box and Details Clothing will go out of business with bigger stores coming in, competing and pushing out 'the little guys'.

A community meeting was held on December 17th to discuss the plans with local residents; everyone was able to voice their opinions and ask questions at the meeting.  There was overwhelming support.  The next step is to have the proposed plans presented to San Jose Planning Department, who will either approve or reject the design.  It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, and I will share more information as it becomes available.