San Jose community leaders on Saturday unveiled a health and wellness service center dedicated specifically to the needs of the city’s large Vietnamese-American community. The $33-million sleek building near the city’s Little Saigon was first conceptualized a decade ago.
The 37,000-square-foot three-story Vietnamese American Service Center houses a health clinic, dental and mental health services, pharmacy, meeting rooms, child care facilities, lounge area and open office spaces that will help cater the needs of the city’s 140,000 Vietnamese American residents.
“This is a culmination of years and years of work,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, told The Mercury News.
It was in December 2011 when then-Supervisor now-state senator Dave Cortese commissioned a health assessment of the community in San Jose, the largest Vietnamese enclave of any US city outside of Vietnam. After six months of collecting data, the report indicated that while the Vietnamese American community was a vibrant, close-knit community, there were “specific needs within the community that should be addressed in order to improve the overall health and wellness of the community,” read an official letter from Cortese to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
In 2015, Cortese and Chavez pushed for the creation of the service center. The construction kicked off in November 2019. In addition to the $33 million construction contract, another $17 million was shelled out for the architect, permits and furnishing. The building was designed by Vietnamese-born architect Thang Do.
The center’s completion comes at a time when Vietnamese Americans and the whole Asian community in the US slowly recover from an unprecedented rise of anti-Asian hate crimes during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“It’s a reminder that we belong here,” Vietnamese local organizer Christina Johnson told San Jose Spotlight.
Considered a historic moment for the community, the center is the first of its kind in the nation — given the significant contributions and achievements of the Vietnamese since the first wave of refugees came to the US four decades ago.
“(This center) will deliver to the Vietnamese American community here the same services that everyone else wants, but in a very specific way based on their needs, educational services, safety net services, health services, even services with cancer screening,” Senator Cortese told the local media outlet.
Besides the facilities and services, the center also features Vietnamese icons and symbols that represent the people it’s built for. The bamboo glass walls were made to resemble local villages in Vietnam, while the spiral lighting in one of the rooms depicted the traditional conical hat non la. Colorful lanterns, like those that illuminate Hoi An ancient town, also hang in the rooms.
The center will open with limited services starting November 22, as construction of the third floor terrace and lobby are still underway. It will have its grand opening by Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) in February next year.