Thursday, November 09, 2017

Palo Alto Fry's development

A huge 39-acre parcel in Palo Alto that includes the Fry’s Electronics store could be redeveloped soon when the Sobrato’s lease expires at the end of 2019, and Palo Alto is beginning to discuss how the tract could possibly be redeveloped in the future. The plan could call for multifamily condos, a new school and additional neighborhood services.

Before Fry's is bulldozed into oblivion, be sure to take a closer look at the building it shares with others and consider its history. This warehouse-type building was once a cannery, and the best local metaphor, I can think of that illustrates this area's transformation from an agriculture "Valley of Heart's Delight" to the high tech world of modern Silicon Valley.

In 1906, after the earthquake, a man named 
Thomas Foon Chew opened a cannery in Alviso called Bayside Cannery. It grew to be the third 
largest cannery of fruits and vegetables in the world (behind Libby and Del Monte, both in 
Sunnyvale). This was at a time when the Santa Clara Valley was mostly agricultural and the center 
of the canning industry.

Bayside grew so large that in 1919 Foon built a second plant in Palo Alto mainly to pack tomatoes. This is the building now occupied by Fry's. Sometime in the 1920s the plant was sold to Safeway, which ran it until 1949 under the name Sutter Packing. It later became a soft drink bottling plant before becoming Maximart, an unusual retail enterprise with an interesting history of its own.
 From mechanically canned tomatoes to microchips 
within the same space, all within living memory.

This building will undoubtedly disappear as we turn our attention to our next major concern, finding housing for the very population modern technology has brought to the area. Change will come. It is inevitable. But with this change we will have lost one of the most important symbols we have that links us with our past. Take a good look at it while you can.

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