SAN JOSE — A China-based real estate firm has neglected to follow through on the preservation and revamp of a century-old downtown San Jose, California, church, leaving city officials increasingly frustrated by the developer’s inaction.
The project arose from a proposal by Chinese development firm Z&L Properties — whose principal executive has been arrested in London amid a San Francisco bribery and corruption case — to restore and rescue the old church and then build two housing towers next to the historic San Jose building.
Instead of that grand vision, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, built in 1905, has tumbled into apparent abandonment by its owner, an affiliate of Z&L Properties, which is based in China but has a Bay Area office in Foster City.
“This is turning into negligence,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy.
The church’s current image is nothing less than forbidding and is in stark contrast to the ambitious plans of years ago for a revived church and two gleaming housing high-rises that would have helped to revitalize the moribund St. James Park area.
“I personally have been reaching out to Z&L personnel,” said Nanci Klein, San Jose’s director of economic development. “I’m frustrated that the company has not fulfilled its obligations.”
The historic structure is flanked by a weed-choked and unkempt field and appears to be exposed to the elements. Torrential rains of December and January were just the most recent storms that battered the old church. The building is now only partially covered by an increasingly tattered tarp fastened by a haphazard web of ropes.
“We are most eager for Z&L to sell the property as has been the company’s stated intent for some time,” Klein said. “Nothing is happening.”