What Could Replace Great America?

Silicon Valley Business Journal

by Chelsea Nguyen-Fleige

Amusement Park fans will have to go elsewhere for fun after California's Great America closes, which will happen by2033.


July 8, 2022 - Here is the big question that fell upon Santa Clara County last week: What will Prologis Inc. do with the land beneath California's Great America when the park closes for good?
What SVBJ Readers Said Should Replace Great America:
  • 47% Another Amusement Park
  • 14% Housing
  • 8% Big Mixed-use Project
  • 6% Warehouse or Industrial
  • 25% Other
San Francisco-base Prologis isn’t known as a developer of entertainment venues, offices, hotels or housing – the dominant types of properties either already built or in the works in the northern part of the City of Santa Clara. Instead, Prologis, the largest property owner in Silicon Valley with 12 million square feet of leasable space, primarily manages, develops and owns industrial property.

When the new broke June 27 that it paid Great America owner Cedar Fair L.P. $310 million for the 112-acre site, there was no clue as to Prologis’ long-term intent.  As part f the deal, the company will lease the land back to cedar Fair for between two and 11 years, allowing the 46-year-old theme park to stay in business for the time being.

Prologis did not say what it plans to eventually do with the property, leaving open the possibility it could stick with what it knows best – building warehouses or manufacturing space.

But Christian D. Malesic, the President and CEO of the Santa Clara based Silicon Valley Central Chamber, said he thinks Prologis' purchase implies the company is diversifying.

"That would be my expectation, especially with the changes in society and in the economy." said Malesic, who also lives near that part of Santa Clara.

An industry insider who works closely with Prologis agreed.

“Prologis is more diverse than they get credit for,” the source, who asked not to be identified, told the Business Journal.

Kelly Snider, director of San Jose State University’s real estate development program, described Prologis as “one of the most sophisticated, forward thinking, savvy land-use developers in the world.”

But Snider, who is also a Silicon Valley Land-use consultant, isn’t convinced that Prologis will do a major pivot.

“Is this going to be the first time [Prologis} does something else? Possibly. But we have no evidence to point to that,” Snider said, adding that the company is the “best in the world” at doing light industrial or logistics projects.

If Prologis intends to stick with its light industrial roots, the company would need to get the property rezoned.

Five years ago, the Santa Clara City Council approved a 20-year master plan for the Great America area, rezoning it to be a planned development. That zoning allows for new rides to be installed, year-round operation of the park and the construction of a commercial and entertainment district outside of the theme park’s gates that would be open to the public, according to the city’s files.

“We were really looking for-ward to seeing it (Great America) grow and be an even better asset in the entertainment district, so this (sale) is surprising,” said City Councilmember Kathy Watanabe, whose district includes the park.

Malesic thinks a mixed-use development along the lines of the 240-acre Related Santa Clara project is the most likely scenario for the Great America property.  With more housing going up in that area – namely to the north at Tasman East, where a number of residential towers are in development, and to the south at Freedom Circle, where the City Council is clearing the path for multi-family residential developments – another project that offers additional food and entertainment for those incoming residents makes sense, he said.

“Those are the type of projects that at least the current leaders in city government are not only pushing but are very much in favor of,” Malesic said. “I would be flabbergasted if (Prologis) made it industrial, especially with everything happening all around there. It doesn’t fit the plan.”