JCC to unveil new park and pavilion

Long-awaited amenities aim to improve connection between Fabian Way campus and broader community

A view of the 25,000 square-foot park from the second story of the Oshman Family JCC's new pavilion in Palo Alto. The field will be used for the JCC's fitness programs, after-school and summer camps and the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool. Photo courtesy Oshman Family JCC.

After almost 10 years of anticipation, Palo Alto's Oshman Family Jewish Community Center will officially unveil its new park and pavilion this Sunday.

Dubbed the "final piece of the campus" by Oshman Family JCC CEO Zack Bodner, the 25,000-square-foot park and two-story pavilion boast a fire pit, garden, track, outdoor fitness area and plenty of multipurpose space for dance classes, camp activities, concerts and movie nights.

Construction on the Fabian Way campus' additions started in July 2017 and was completed July 2. Between July and this month, the JCC acquired use permits and added some finishing touches.

The new facilities were part of the first blueprints of the campus that opened in 2009, but the JCC lacked the $13 million to complete the final architectural design until Silicon Valley real estate kingpins John Arrillaga and John and Jill Freidenrich became involved in 2017. The Freidenrichs donated $5 million for the development and when they brought Arrillaga on board for the project, he covered everything over the JCC's capped construction cost of $10 million.

Once John Arrillaga got involved, the project was able to be completed relatively quickly, said JCC Chief Operating Officer Sally Flinchbaugh.

The park has been officially dubbed the Friedenrich Community Park while the pavilion was named the Arrillaga Family Pavilion.

"We are a nonprofit and we thrive on donations, of course, it's part of our budget, but all donations were particularly earmarked to build the field and pavilion," OFJCC Director of Community Engagement Luba Palant said.

She added that no programming money or any other type of budget revenue contributed to the park and pavilion's development.

The park, which consists of a full-length soccer field, rubber running track, gym and playground structures, was originally built to provide a green space for the campus, Palant said. The wide, open area will be used for all of the JCC's programming -- including fitness classes; after-school and summer camps; celebrations and holiday festivals; and the OFJCC Leslie Family Preschool.

On the periphery of the park, there is a fire pit for s'mores, benches under shade structures and a garden. The JCC also plans to create space for "water play" with water slides this month for summer camp attendees.

The two-story pavilion also will be utilized for a multitude of different activities, including yoga classes and cultural arts programming. The building comprises of a 2,086-square-foot first floor, which can accommodate up to 138 guests, and a 1,476-square-foot multipurpose event room on the second floor with a maximum occupancy of 43 people. The second floor also includes a covered outdoor terrace that spans 884 square feet.

Flinchbaugh said the space also will be used for interfaith Shabbat dinners, meetings and to expand the center's after-school programs.

"It's just more space to do what we do," Flinchbaugh said. "We're so impacted by space, and we're doing so many different programs that this (new development) just gives us more opportunity."

Flinchbaugh and Bodner both stressed how the new pavilion will expand opportunities for the JCC's recently launched Center for Social Impact, which focuses on humanitarian work.

"We work with the homeless. We work with the hungry. We work with the VA Hospital here," Bodner said. "A lot of this work will be able to happen on a whole new scale at the new park and pavilion."

Bodner also emphasized that the new space is not limited to just JCC members, but is intended for the whole community. Seniors from the nearby Moldaw Residences, students from Kehillah Jewish High School and any community member will be welcome to use the space when it is available.

The park and pavilion were partly based off of the sociological concept of the "third place," the idea that people need a social environment outside of home and work, Bodner said. He said hopes that the new facilities will be many community members' new "third places."

"People find meaning in their lives in these gathering spaces, because they connect to others," he said. "At our park, people can come together and just hang out after a long day."

Sunday's grand opening at the park and pavilion will kick off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and will include face painting, water activities, carnival games and food trucks. It will also feature various cultural dance groups and singers.

During the event, the JCC also will highlight its fitness center with different workshops, clinics and workouts like yoga, soccer and kickboxing. Free 10-minute chair massages and membership tours will be given as well.

The grand opening will be on Sunday, Aug. 12, from noon to 3 p.m. at the JCC, 3921 Fabian Way. More information can be found at


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Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly attributed a quote about developer John Arrillaga's involvement in the project and gave an incorrect title for Luba Palant. Palo Alto Online regrets the errors.

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4 people like this
Posted by southern Palo Alto
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Aug 11, 2018 at 7:54 pm

The JCC is a jewel in Palo Alto. We've both been Fitness Center members for 4 years, going several times each week to work out. We're both 79 and even though we are not Jewish, we feel at home in the gym where the membership ranges from the "young buffs" to those in their 90's. The wonderful part is that everyone is welcome and feels at home. The trainers are well trained and careful in their instruction to both young and old. On a typical day, I hear Cantonese, Russian, Hebrew, Mandarin, English, etc. It's really a melting pot. There are exercise classes galore, all free for the Fitness Center membership, THe cultural activities include first-rate performers. We especailly like the wide range such as the Yiddish folk teller. He knew how to deliver and brought laughs from everyone. Who'd think I'd like this, but I laughed and laughed. Anyway, the JCC is really the center of our lives. For us, it's practically in our back yard; and we don't have to drive to SF for the wide range of cultural activites. Yes, it's a Jewish Center, and many programs have a Jewish emphasis but many do not. What's not to like about some diversity in one's life.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2018 at 10:09 pm

I always wondered what was behind the blast wall :)

3 people like this
Posted by Jewel
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 12, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Jewel is a registered user.

@Resident - Go visit and you might be enlightened. It is open to everybody.

@Southern Palo Alto - Agreed. We live in downtown Palo Alto, but there is so little for families to do here, JCC has become the center of our lives.

In downtown Palo Alto, you can eat out in a restaurant, but not much else. There is no youth center, few affordable fitness classes, and few community events. Most of the affordable stores have closed, so you have to travel to Mountain View anyway.

In contrast, JCC has affordable fitness classes, indoor pools, youth activities and community events. You can get food, spend our time inside or outside, and be there all day. The Palo Alto Community Center has no food, not even bottles of water. It is more geared to wealthy suburban people with large houses and cars, not for busy parents and families in need of community. Palo Alto City Hall has a plaza, but all it has are blue trees.

Our only complaints about JCC is the lack of bus service to JCC from North Palo Alto. Although JCC is the 8th most traveled to destination in Palo Alto, the city will not provide bus service there (except for the occasional VTA bus which only runs for school service, and only goes to midtown.) Both the city and VTA act to cut off North Palo Alto from South Palo Alto, no matter how hard people try to travel there.

Like this comment
Posted by southern Palo Alto
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 13, 2018 at 10:49 am

To: Jewel: Thank you, thank you for mentioning the erratic bus service cutting off south Palo Alto from north Palo Alto. That's just one of the issues - the elephant in the room - in the city's and county's disparate services to different section of the city. Another one is the location of Avenidas in downtown Palo Alto, miles away from those who live south of Oregon Expressway. The city fathers have blinders on about these issues.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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