For some, the Pallesen Apartment House was a fine example of early 20th century architecture, a 1910 building designed by the famous San Jose company Wolfe & McKenzie. For others, it has become a symbol of community collaboration to maintain a building and create affordable housing.
For Carol Reding Sisney, it was Grandma’s house.
Her grandparents, Jack and Agnes Reding, lived in one of the building’s four units, which began in 1941 and lasted until Agnes’ death in 1990. “They chose the location because it was close to St. Joseph’s Church and Notre Dame High School,” said Sisney, who was born in San Jose but grew up in Aptos. The longtime teacher said she had fond memories of visiting her grandmother in the building – which she eventually managed – and taking family photos in the alley next to the ground floor apartment.
SAN JOSE, CA – MARCH 28: Carol Reding Sisney helped rescue the Pallese apartment building, watching it move from its centuries-old location on the first block of East Reed Street in San Jose, California on Sunday, March 28, 2021 Her paternal grandparents lived there for 50 years and she said it was the center of her family. The building will be relocated 3 blocks east to become Habit for Humanity and to make way for a new high-rise. (Karl Mondon / Bay Area News Group)
“This became the hub for my family,” she said.
Sisney was among the dozen of people who watched Sunday morning as the 111-year-old building on First Street and Reed Street was hoisted and towed by a semi-trailer on a box three blocks away on a 900-yard trip to its new home . The prep work for the move had been going on for the past few weeks, but it got real before the sun rose over downtown San Jose when the two-story apartment building moved to Reed Street.
The large crew of Kelly Brothers House Movers placed 40 wheels under the house – in five sets of eight that could spin and turn individually with hydraulics like a low driver – and began their slow journey just after 8:30 a.m. It took less than 30 minutes to reach the destination on Fourth Street off the ramp to Interstate 280. The crowd followed every step of the way. People walking their dogs stopped to watch the spectacle, children waved at the pallets as they passed from the curb outside Notre Dame High, and almost everyone had a phone camera trained for the strange event.
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It took nearly 90 minutes for the site trailer to arrive on Fourth Street, slowly moving the house back to its new lot. The crew would stop every few minutes to change the angle on the wheels and push the house into the room. San Jose Preservation Action Council volunteers, who raised $ 300,000 for the move, sold Save the Pallesen t-shirts from a pop-up tent on the corner and Janice Jensen, CEO of Habitat for Humanity in East Bay / Silicon Valley. watched with concern as the building carefully dodged trees and light poles.
It was the last leg of a journey that sometimes looked like it would never take place. It was late 2019 when Habitat for Humanity, the City of San Jose, PAC-SJ, and developer KT Urban first got the idea to save the building by moving it to the empty, surplus city property it is selling would go to Habitat for only $ 1. There was applause for the deal announced in February 2020 and then the pandemic hit. Plans were put on hold and another offer was made to relocate the building. This new plan failed, however, and by December it looked like the Pallesen were being demolished to make way for the Garden Gate Tower, a 27-story residential project.
With a push by San Jose City Councilor Raul Peralez to get everyone talking, PAC-SJ launched its fundraiser and KT Urban and new developer Scape agreed to keep the wrecking ball at bay for a few weeks.
Because it all came together so quickly in the end, Jensen said the building will remain on its box cribbing props for months while claims are secured and a new foundation is poured. Then the renovations begin with the aim of bringing everything up to date with the latest code and comfort while maintaining the historical integrity of the building. Jensen said the units will be sold individually at a price well below market price to qualified families who are expected to “work up a sweat” on the renovations as well.
“The wonderful thing is how much support there has been in relation to the community,” said Jensen. “Everyone took part and made it possible. In the end it will be beautiful and we will offer affordable housing to four families. What is there not to celebrate? “
For Carol Reding Sisney, it was definitely a moment of celebration. After learning last week that PAC-SJ had failed to meet its $ 300,000 goal for the move, she and her husband, Bret Sisney, donated the last $ 35,000.
“I wanted to be part of the history of San Jose,” she said. “My grandparents were meager when they moved there and now the circle is coming full circle that this will once again be home to low-income families.”