San Jose is the third largest city in California, and the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area, trumping even the region’s more famous namesake city in population. San Jose, however, is a much different kind of city than San Francisco: sprawling and modern, built mostly in the automobile age, this formerly agricultural metropolis with around 1,000,000 residents is the hub of the world’s high tech industries, with many computer manufacturers and internet companies (Apple, Google, HP, etc.) all calling the region home. The San Jose MSA–even viewed separately from San Francisco–is one of the highest-income metropolitan areas in the United States and also amongst the most expensive places to live.
Because San Jose is mostly suburban in character–with much of it built in the post-war era and cris-crossed with massive boulevards and defined by tract housing–it’s surrounded by a bigger crop of malls than much of the rest of the Bay Area. We’ve already discussed the most prominent dead one–Cupertino Square/Vallco Fashion Park–but here are some tidbits about the most significant one serving the city’s mostly middle-class southern flank.
Westfield Oakridge (formerly known as “Westfield Shoppingtown Oakridge” or, originally, just “Oakridge Mall) is a large shopping mall located on the south side of San Jose, in the Almaden/Blossom Hill area. One of three malls along the Blossom Hill Road corridor and the largest by far, the mall is one of the largest and most dominant malls serving Silicon Valley and one of the largest overall in Northern California. Westfield Oakridge was originally built in 1971 by The Hahn Company, with anchors Montgomery Ward and Macy’s. A Bullock’s store was added somewhat later. Bullock’s closed in 1983 and was replaced by Nordstrom in 1985, when Nordies acquired all of Bullocks stores in the region. Unfortunately, the store underperformed and was sold to Sears in 1994, and they continue to occupy the space today.
Westfield bought the mall in 1998 and did their standard rebranding deal wherein they make the logo look like every other Westfield mall on the planet. Bigger changes came the following year when Target replaced bankrupt Montgomery Ward to anchor the mall’s eastern end in 1999. As you can see from the photos, the exterior of this Target store is *really* cool and modern but with quite a bit of the hip old verve of the department stores of the old days. I have to give Target credit; their mall anchor stores (and even their standalone multi-level stores) have some of the best new department store architecture today.
In 2003, Westfield decided to significantly upgrade and expand Oakridge with a $150,000,000+ renovation that added a new multiplex Century Theatres and tacked an entire new parallel wing in front of the old mall. This is a fairly standard tack for Westfield (they’ve done similar at other malls in Northern California, including Westfield Valley Fair and Westfield Roseville Galleria) and it created a distinctive “racetrack” design and significantly expanded the size and dominance of the one-level mall. Borders, Old Navy, and Nordstrom Rack (originally Linens N Things) also complete the roster as junior anchors, and there’s a restaurant row outside of the mall along the side facing Blossom Hill Road.