Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life almost ready to open

Palm trees have replaced construction cranes at the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life in Palo Alto.

Which means the TKCJL is two weeks away from completion.

On Sept. 1, the TKCJL will finally open its doors to the community after seven years of planning, fundraising and construction. Its official grand opening will be Oct. 18 at 10 a.m.

The campus contains the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center and the Moldaw Family Residences, together a $302 million, 8.6-acre campus that expects 1 million visits a year.

“Our goal is to become a nexus for the Jewish community and also a resource for the community at large,” said Alan Sataloff, CEO of the OFJCC. “This facility will allow us to fulfill that vision.”

Architects Robert Steinberg (left) and Randy Popp give a tour of the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life. photos/stacey palevsky

Already 3,000 people have joined the JCC, a number that puts the facility ahead of its projections. By 2012, the JCC hopes to have 10,000 members.

Since July, the JCC has been giving tours. Welcome to yours.

Upon entering the complex, located just north of Mountain View near the intersection of E. Charleston and San Antonio roads, visitors will first notice the stairs. That’s because the 435,000-square-foot campus was built 12 feet above street level to accommodate a parking garage beneath. The garage includes special spaces for the environmentally friendly traveler — those on bicycles, in fuel-efficient cars or carpools.

At the top of the stairs, visitors will  notice glass doors leading to the JCC’s shiny new state-of-the-art fitness center.

The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Sports and Wellness Complex contains a six-lane outdoor lap swimming pool and an indoor swimming area with slides and games for kids; an NBA-sized basketball court; bright and airy yoga, Pilates and spinning studios; and a 7,000-square-foot fitness center with cardio machines equipped with TV screens and Internet connections.

Just outside the fitness center is a wide-open “town square” with a small grassy amphitheater, benches, and palm and olive trees.

The expansive square will allow JCC staff to use the space for events like outdoor Shabbat programs and musical performances. And because the Moldaw Family Residences, the TKCJL’s senior living community, are just above the square, occupants will be right in the heart of the action.

“We hoped to design a campus that fosters connections,” said Rob Steinberg, one of the project’s architects. He and his colleagues at Steinberg Architects in San Jose visited 25 JCCs to design a space for Palo Alto that would support every possible type of interaction.

For instance, shaded benches are scattered around the town square so that if people run into each other, they can shmooze on-site. The hallways of the fitness center are sprinkled with tables and chairs for the same reason. 

Around the perimeter of the town square is a sidewalk café; a Judaica shop, Miriam’s Well; and space for a handful of Jewish agencies.

Already, JCC staff — now with six additional members to expand the organization’s programming in its new space — have moved into their offices, which are quite the upgrade from the small trailers (or “closets,” as marketing manager Mimi Sells joked) they occupied in the JCC’s previous site on Cubberly Road.

The brightest space is the teen lounge. Decorated in blues and greens and outfitted with a flat-screen television, computers and beanbag chairs, teens can work or hang out whenever they choose. There’s even a kitchenette for after-school munchies.

“I took my 20-year-old daughter and her friends to see the campus in July, and I’m pleased to say they were very impressed,” Steinberg said. “If the up-and-coming leaders of the Jewish community are giving me the thumbs up, that’s encouraging.”

The JCC’s indoor “water park” will cater to kids.

On the other side of the square are  12 classrooms (one for each of the 12 Tribes of Israel) for T’enna Preschool.

Orange planters in a courtyard adjacent to the classrooms will allow children to learn about gardening by planting vegetables, herbs and fruit.

Sataloff said he’s hoping the residents at Moldaw will get involved and make the garden an intergenerational project.

Already, the preschool has registered 50 percent more students than last year, with around 220 signed up for the 2009-10 school year.

Walk through the square to the other side of campus, where a towering glass structure — the Albert and Janet Schultz Cultural Arts Center — is one part gleaming glass and one part windowless theater.

The floor-to-ceiling glass lobby opens up to a courtyard draped with lights for evening receptions.

“This exposes [JCC and other] programs to the community, elegant events and the arts,” said Randy Popp, associate principal with Steinberg Architects. “It’s very intentional that the lobby faces the street.”

The 340-seat theater’s first show will be a screening of the Argen-tinean film “Letters for Jenny” as part of the Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival. The screening will take place Oct. 17, the evening before the grand opening.

Across from the theater is the Stanford Hospital Health Library and Research Center, which will host classes and lectures taught by Stanford University doctors and teachers, and allow members and Moldaw residents access to Stanford medical research.

Scheduled classes include “Aging: Don’t Take it Sitting Down,” “Farewell to Falls” and “Strong for Life.”

The Palo Alto JCC started in the 1960s in a storefront on El Camino Real. Since then, it has operated out of five different locations, most recently the trailers on Cubberly Road.

Now, the JCC has a permanent home. And Steinberg, the architect, is thrilled about that.

“This has been the apex of my professional career,” he said. “To contribute to the Jewish community in a way that will have a powerful, lasting impact for generations is about as fulfilling and cherished an opportunity as one might imagine.”

The Oshman Family JCC opens Sept. 1 and is offering charter membership rates through Aug. 31. The grand opening celebration of the Taube Koret Campus for Jewish Life will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 18. 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. Tour signups or more information: (650) 248-2959 or www.paloaltojcc.org.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.