- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) City officials promised yesterday that a massive $500 million residential-retail project ravaged by fire Monday will rise as planned and help lead Silicon Valley out of the dot-com bust.

"Although this has had and will have a tremendous economic impact on this project and our city, I am confident that we will move forward and rebuild," Mayor Ron Gonzales said.

The eight-alarm fire gutted six acres of the Santana Row development an upscale 42-acre retail, commercial and residential project billed as a "city within a city" and designed to lure people from across the San Francisco Bay Area. Part of the complex was slated to open next month.

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There were no immediate damage estimates yesterday. The cause was under investigation.

The development, conceived at the height of the dot-com boom, was one of the most ambitious projects of its kind in the United States.

"It was a boost to our psyche that we were poised for an economic recovery, " said Jim Cunneen, chief executive of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. "I am devastated."

Hundreds of job seekers lined up last month, hoping to land one of about 1,000 jobs ultimately expected at the mall. The project was also expected to add millions of dollars in sales-tax revenue to city coffers, said Paul Krutko, the city's economic development director.

The blaze spewed 100-foot-high flames and black smoke that could be seen for miles. It was the largest fire in San Jose history, according to Fire Chief Manuel Alarcon and perhaps the most devastating since an 1887 blaze burned the city's Chinatown and displaced more than 2,000 people.

The fire engulfed the largest of nine buildings in the expansive complex. Firefighters were able to spare the others.

Embers from the blaze also burned down apartments blocks away. At least 39 apartments in the Moorpark neighborhood were destroyed and about 120 people were displaced, said fire Capt. Chuck Rangel.

Some residents straddled roofs and tried to douse flames with garden hoses, while others hurriedly carried belongings from their homes.

"My whole roof was on fire," said Devin Dizon. "Whatever you see in the garage is the only thing we've got left," he said, pointing to charred furniture.

No major injuries were reported from the blazes.

The Santana Row development was to open with 36 retail shops and 246 housing units. The rest of the Mediterranean-style project, designed to resemble a lushly landscaped San Francisco street scene, is to include 1,200 luxury residences, a shopping area with stores such as Escada and Gucci, a hotel, a farmer's market and outdoor cafes.

Keith Taylor, 27, who lives about a half mile from the blaze, planned to rent one of the new two-bedroom apartments that burned.

"It was just the ultimate place you would want to live," Mr. Taylor said. "I would only have to walk down the stairs. It is a self-contained community."

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