Milpitas is home to both the Great Mall of the Bay Area and to Ed Levin County Park, giving its 80,000 residents excellent options for shopping and outdoor recreation. All told, Milpitas has 17 parks, two golf courses, a pair of lakes and two dog parks, plus a sports center and one of the Bay Area’s largest high schools, Milpitas High School.
This is a place of growth and optimism, one of the region’s most diverse cities where over 100 ethnicities and nationalities live and work together at the foot of the Diablo Hills, which comprise Milpitas’ eastern border. The hills provide unsurpassed physical beauty and a setting for Milpitas’ finest neighborhoods, including two gated communities next to the Summerpointe and Spring Valley golf courses.
Milpitas spent its first century as a sparsely-populated farming community whose primary economic driver came from the soil – strawberries, potatoes, asparagus and apricots, mostly. It wasn’t until the 1950s, after incorporation and the opening of a Ford automobile plant, that Milpitas began to grow in earnest. In 1950, Milpitas’ population was 800; by 1980 is was 60,000.
Of course, Milpitas today is not the Milpitas of 1950, 1960, or even 1980. Whatever farming is still going on is done on small, privately-owned plots. Most agricultural land was long ago subdivided and developed for housing, shopping and industry. Modern Milpitas’ primary industry is technology; several well-known tech outfits – like SanDisk and Cisco – operate locally. Cisco, in fact, is Milpitas’ largest employer.
But this doesn’t mean Milpitas has completely left its past in the rearview mirror, or that this go-go little city doesn’t have time for community.
Milpitas does not have a traditional downtown core. What was once its downtown, a stretch of Main Street known as “Midtown,” is now mostly shopping centers and government buildings, including the stunning Milpitas Library. Completed in 2009, it’s Santa Clara County’s largest library at 60,000 square feet. This unique building incorporated the original Milpitas Elementary School into its design, preserving the original 1916 Greek Revival school building as part of its front-facing exterior façade.
Outside of the library, however, there is little evidence on Main Street of the dusty, rural town Milpitas once was, save for the odd building here and there, like the former “Smith’s Corner” tavern at 167 South Main Street. Built in 1895, it’s now an Indian restaurant called Red Chillies.
Milpitas’ population is diverse and busy, but locals make time for fairs and festivals that reflect the town’s cosmopolital character, like the Milpitas International Barbecue Festival. The local Chamber of Commerce maintains a year-round slate of community events. And as you might expect with so many cultures in town, the local dining scene is a celebration of foods from around the world; Middle Eastern, Thai, Afghan, Burmese, Korean, Indian, Chinese, Italian… Milpitas locals can circle the globe, food-wise, without ever leaving their home zip code.
If you had to sum up Milpitas in one word, that word would be “change.” Change didn’t stop in Milpitas when the apricot fields gave way to tech companies, when the Ford plant was completed in 1954, or when it was torn down and replaced with the Great Mall in 1994. It didn’t stop when the population hit 60,000, and it certainly didn’t stop when the town’s demographics began shifting to create the inclusive, multi-cultural profile of today. The BART station, part of an extension to connect San Francisco to San Jose, is just the latest change to come to Milpitas, the dynamic Silicon Valley city whose eyes are always turned toward the future.
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