Downtown San Jose gets financial boost to guide the urban core’s economic recovery

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, CA – AUGUST 29: People play in a fountain outside of the Fairmont Hotel August 29, 2007 in downtown San Jose, California. The U.S. Census Bureau released its newest population survey today and named San Jose, California as the richest city in the United States with a population of 500,000 or more. The median household income in San Jose is $74,000. San Francisco, California and San Diego, California were second and third followed by Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The San Jose Downtown Association (SJDA) is partnering with the John S. and James L. Knight foundation in an effort to make downtown San Jose more welcoming for residents and visitors.

The foundation is investing nearly $1 million towards SJDA’s Beautiful Tableau initiative, a five-year effort to create a better future for the downtown area by using data to provide insights for city planners and to build an community urban center.

“San Jose can learn from shared experiences and challenges during the pandemic to build a city that amplifies our diversity, accelerates our innovation, leverages our history, and builds equity by connecting residents and business owners with those who wish to invest in the city’s future,” said Christopher Thompson, Knight’s San Jose director.

“Now, we’re moving forward with this unique opportunity to reimagine a downtown that is welcoming, safe and desirable for everyone.”

SJDA says the Beautiful Tableau project is expected to start small and grow over the years as the association works with executives, business and property owners, artists, investors, developers and others for input on project decisions.

Here’s what the project intends to do:

  • Gather information that’s useful to fill empty storefronts and enhance merchandising in existing storefronts;
  • Make a list of favored native plants to populate pedestrian paths;
  • Identify best sites for public art placement;
  • Establish temporary art on fencing separating visitors from large construction projects;
  • Collect evidence that raises the level of street life improvements beyond murals, decorative lighting and planters.

“The definition of ‘tableau’ is a memorable and dramatic image or scene,” said Sarah Billings, SJDA Street Life Manager.

“We’re inspired to collaborate with our partners to evoke new opportunities downtown for our residents, workers, students and visitors by filling in the spaces between our established districts.”

Over the five years of the grant, SJDA says it wants to strengthen the publics experience along Santa Clara from the Diridon Station to City Hall; between the Historic District and South First Area (SoFA); on routes to and from Guadalupe River Park; and on Park Avenue between Market Street and Almaden Boulevard.

SJDA also wants to connect San Jose State University with the rest of downtown.

Knight’s $1 million investment will help kickstart construction, allocating resources and will fund other various initiatives that look to enhance he downtown area.

“With the Beautiful Tableau initiative, we’re reaching for a higher bar of excitement and vivacity than we’ve ever experienced,” said Chloe Shipp, SJDA Director of Public Space Operations.

“We’re going to make sure we’re ready for the eruption of construction we expect over the next several years.”

The investment comes as more than 50 office and high-rise projects are already underway in downtown — including Google’s plan to create a multi-use transit village called Downtown West Campus, next to an expanded Diridon Station.

Portions of Knight’s investment will be used to collect data that will be used to assist with downtown branding, marketing and communications, and expand downtown’s capacity for research and development.

SJDA says the objective is to build confidence among stakeholders and encourage additional investment.

The foundation’s investment is one of few over the last several years in an aim to support the community.

In May 2018, a section of the Market-San Pedro Square parking garage was converted to add four-ground-floor retail spaces, providing 15 entrepreneurs a chance to test their concepts in a storefront location.

In June 2020, a five-year Street Life imitative was completed that resulted in dozens of downtown decorative and landscape improvement.

“Knight’s support and the leveraging of funds provided by property owners, businesses and City of San Jose resources resulted in a more dynamic downtown environment pre-COVID, which sets the table for the Beautiful Tableau initiative,” Shipp said.

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