Artificial intelligence incubator hub is eyed for downtown San Jose

Busy developer hopes A.I. hub can help spur downtown economy

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A fledgling effort being pursued by a busy local real estate developer that could strengthen the city’s urban core could sprout an artificial intelligence incubator in downtown San Jose.

The AI project by developer Gary Dillabough is in its early stages, and there are no guarantees that it will succeed.

One thing appears certain: an AI incubator could provide a significant economic boost to the downtown area.

“San Jose should be the capital for AI development,” Dillabough said at a recent event to discuss the city’s downtown’s current state and future prospects.

Dillabough made his remarks at the Silicon Valley Real Estate Breakfast on September 6, hosted by prominent law firm Hoge Fenton.

“We are talking with a potential partner about bringing 40 or 50 AI startups to downtown San Jose,” Dillabough said during a discussion about how to stimulate economic activity in the city’s urban core.

Nick Goddard, a senior vice president with Colliers, a commercial real estate firm, quickly embraced the concept.

“It would be awesome if Gary Dillabough could get that going,” Goddard said.

Dillabough did not name the partner or reveal the potential location for the artificial intelligence startup hub.

“Downtown San Jose should be the center of AI Valley,” Dillabough said after the breakfast event in an interview with this news organization.

According to Dillabough, three or four downtown locations are being considered for the future AI startup hub.

“If you could get somebody like Y Combinator involved, you would have an instant stable for startups,” Goddard said. Y Combinator, based in Mountain View, California, was founded in 2005 as a technology startup accelerator.

San Jose’s business, real estate, and political leaders have attempted to advance a variety of initiatives and proposals to revitalize the city’s downtown.

“An AI incubator is a brilliant concept, and why not have it downtown,” said David Taxin, a partner at commercial real estate firm Meacham/Oppenheimer. “This could be a way to bring more people and companies into downtown San Jose.”

Downtown San Jose has suffered greatly as a result of coronavirus-related business closures that drove away office workers, merchants, and restaurants from the city’s urban core.

The closures are over, and the coronavirus threat appears to be greatly reduced — but downtown San Jose is still struggling to regain the pre-COVID vibrancy that created lively scenes in parts of the city’s urban core.

San Jose is not alone in this regard. Many American cities’ urban cores are still struggling, with some in worse shape than downtown San Jose.

For example, downtown San Francisco is trapped in a “doom loop” of empty storefronts, closed restaurants, ailing hotels, vacant offices, failed shopping malls, homelessness, and crime.

“There’s a lot more tech talent in San Jose than there is in San Francisco,” Goddard says. “An AI incubator can instill a youthful and buzzy energy in downtown San Jose.” People will want to be in the presence of that energy.”

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