A letter from Joe Miller, president,
and the Board of Directors of Works/San José
Dear members and friends of Works,
We’ve received notice from The Office of Councilmember Raul Peralez that Works must vacate our 365 South Market Street home by June of 2021. At that time the gallery is to be demolished and turned into a “visitor center” and executive office space for Team San José (TSJ). As many of you know, this has been part of an evolving effort by Works’ landlord TSJ to move us out of our home. Their first proposal, less than 2 years ago, was that Works would become cubicle space for potential new TSJ employees. Last year, our liaison with TSJ informed us that the space would be converted to executive offices. In December of 2019, TSJ’s CEO advised us that Works should be looking to relocate very soon. In the past few months TSJ Board members and employees again informed us of the plan for executive offices, and also of a plan for a visitor center. The plan to locate a visitor center there seems counter to the view of their CEO, who had said that our area has little foot traffic and low visibility.
Regardless of those contradictions, the City is now very excited about the visitor center idea, since eliminating Works for office space alone would deactivate the Market Street side of the convention center, where Works is the only storefront activity. In fact, a District 3 representative has requested that Works keep the site activated up until the conversion to the visitor center.
The day after the notice, I reached out to our District 3 contacts, asking if there could be any assistance in moving and building out a new space, since both TSJ and the City had encouraged and approved our recent improvements to the space. Improvements including flooring, electrical, lighting, and streetscaping were done after assurances of continued leases, and were paid for exclusively from donations to Works. After a few weeks we have yet to receive a response or acknowledgement. We understand that the City has a lot on its plate, but Works did not pick the timing of this decision. This huge financial and logistical challenge for Works coincides with immense reductions in City arts funding, due to the collapse of hotel tax revenue. Although Works is highly rated by reviewers for City Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) grants, arts grantees will suffer severe cuts in this and next year, according to the OCA.
People throughout our arts community often say that Works is a survivor, and it has been. However, with this new move, Works will have had to find, fund, and build out a completely new site on the of average of every 6 years of its 43-year history. No other local arts organization has survived that frequency and number of upheavals. We are optimistic that we will be able to survive this move, but we’ll need a lot of help—the expense and work will be formidable.
Nine years ago, I and a great group of Board members and volunteers moved Works out of a financially disastrous location set up by the City’s then Redevelopment Agency. We had the help of Sam Liccardo and his then District 3 office in escaping that situation and securing our current home. Since moving to 365 South Market, where we took over a nearly empty space used for storage, we’ve been able to build great relationships and a good reserve. However, we still need the City to respond and not literally pull the rug (which we had installed just before all of this) out from under us.
Please send a polite note to the following individuals, asking that if they must evict Works and demolish the investments we’ve made, to please also provide support for the move to, and buildout of, a new Works/San José community art space. Please write to:
Councilmember Raul Peralez: email@example.com
Mayor Sam Liccardo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Team San José does not have a representative who can reply at this time. We have spoken with the COO who confirmed a one year lease extension to June 2021.