The purpose of the Feasibility Study is to present an analysis of the rationale and opportunity for developing a Food Manufacturing and Wholesale Center in San José, and at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in particular. The core concept for the Food Center is a permanent facility dedicated to providing co-located, affordable, convenient, and resource-efficient space for food manufacturing and wholesale businesses to conduct around-the-clock operations.
The intended audience for this study includes City of San José and Santa Clara County staff and elected officials, prospective public and private developers and partners, allied organizations, and food businesses in San José and the South Bay. SAGE produced the Feasibility Study with support from BAE Urban Economics and with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Local Food Promotion Program and the Knight Foundation. The City of San José also provided support.
The Food Manufacturing and Wholesale Center Feasibility Study describes research and analysis conducted from October 2018 to March 2020. The research entailed an iterative process of refining demand from San José-based food manufacturers and wholesalers and evaluating potential sites. Towards the end of this process, the research team identified the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds – around 150 acres in central San Jose and itself in the midst of redevelopment planning – as the most promising potential site at this time. Therefore, the Fairgrounds is the focus for the Feasibility Study’s programmatic and financial analysis.
The Study has nine sections: 1) Introduction; 2) San Jose Food Manufacturing and Wholesale Center, General Concept; 3) Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Development Overview; 4) Food Manufacturing and Wholesale Center at the Fairgrounds, Challenges and Opportunities; 5) Potential Management Structure; 6) Estimated Costs and Funding; 7) Consistency with City, County and State Goals and Policies; 8) Potential Economic Benefits; and 9) Next Steps. The Study also includes three appendices: A) Examples of U.S. Wholesale Food Markets; B) Santa Clara County Fairgrounds Management Corporation, Proposed 2020 Operating Budget and Business Plan (which calls for a public market/food center as an element in the redevelopment plan); and C) Assessment of San José Food Wholesale and Manufacturing Businesses, 2019 (results of a detailed assessment of 110 San Jose food wholesalers and processors).
This Feasibility Study builds on three previous SAGE studies: San José Food Works: Food System Conditions & Strategies for a More Vibrant Resilient City (2016); San José Wholesale Food Center Development Prospectus, Phase One Feasibility Analysis (2018) and San Jose Food Business Incubator Needs Assessment (2018).
Context in mid-2020
The Feasibility Study for a Food Manufacturing and Wholesale Center at the County Fairgrounds was largely complete in March 2020 prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent, virtual cessation of all but essential economic and social activities throughout the Bay Area, California, and in fact, the entire world. As the region and country emerges from months of disruption and copes with the aftermath, it is possible that some of the Feasibility Study findings, such as the needs of specific businesses, might change, as might the preliminary development plan for the Fairgrounds. More broadly, this crisis brings home the fact that the previous status quo of the food system being taken for granted and not well understood, no longer applies. In fact, the crisis has amplified the need for significant investment in local and regional food systems, including infrastructure, food businesses, and the food and agriculture workforce.