San Jose city officials broke ground this week on Pellier Park, a new open space that will provide residents with a place to take a break from downtown city life.

The half-acre park, located near San Pedro Square, is inspired by the plum orchards that used to grow in the area and is named after French immigrant Louis Pellier who is considered the founder of the prune industry.

Louis Pellier (1817-1872) immigrated to California in 1847 and earned fame as the father of Santa Clara Valley’s bustling prune industry. (Photo courtesy of city of San Jose)

In fact, the new park sits on what was formerly known as the City Gardens — a California historical site that was started by Pellier as a nursery in 1850.

There he had many trees, but it was his plum trees that did especially well. Pellier gave away cuttings of his plum trees and taught other farmers to cultivate the fruit, which eventually led to a robust and profitable prune industry in Santa Clara Valley and throughout the state.

“Pellier died in 1872, but as a result of his plum trees, prunes would become the most produced fruit in the valley and provided livelihood for many families,” a news release from the city says.

By 1887, San Jose alone had 52,000 acres of prune trees and by 2018, California produced 96 percent of prunes nationally and 70 percent of prunes worldwide.

The nursery was eventually changed into a public park in 1977 as part of San Jose’s 200th birthday.

A park reimagined

However, a few years after the park’s opening, the city closed the doors to the park citing security and downtown development as reasons, according to the Pellier Park Master Plan.

Now the park is one of three parks planned for construction that will offer some much-needed greenery to San Jose’s North San Pedro neighborhood which is also being developed, according to city officials.

The North San Pedro neighborhood is expected to have 3,000 apartments and townhouses — of which more than a third are currently under construction, according to city documents.

“Each of the three parks have a different theme,” said Daniel Lazo, interim spokesperson for the city’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department. “Pellier Park is going to be focused on relaxation, whereas the North San Pedro Park is going to be focused more on public life and living and Bassett Park is going to be focused on play with a nice robust playground.”

Renderings of Pellier Park show purple benches, community tables and lawn chairs that will be surrounded by a variety of flora including pink and purple flowering trees and bushes.

The park will also have sloped lawns and shady trees around the center referred to as the ‘pit’.

The construction of the park is estimated to cost about $2.6 million and will be open to the public by the summer of next year.