San Jose Downtown Association’s Street Life projects expands to build a more vibrant, livable San Jose with $625,000 from Knight Foundation – Knight Foundation

San Jose Downtown Association’s Street Life projects expands to build a more vibrant, livable San Jose with $625,000 from Knight Foundation

SAN JOSE, Calif. — July 28, 2015 — San Jose Downtown Association will expand its Street Life Project—which focuses on bringing more vibrancy to the city’s downtown core, with special events, outdoor activities, creative installations and other initiatives—as a way to engage residents in community life and create incentives for talented people to live and stay in the city.  The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is providing $625,000 in new funding to support the expansion over the next five years.

Related Link

‘Street Life’ events enliven San Jose to entice more people downtown” by Scott Knies on Knight Blog

Knight provided initial funding for the Street Life Project in July 2014. With the new support, San Jose Downtown Association will develop more complex street life projects that require additional planning and fundraising. The organization will also focus on long-term planning strategies and urban design challenges that contribute to the city’s beauty, vitality and livability.

To bring more life to public spaces, San Jose Downtown Association will increase its annual event schedule, which includes more than 110 days of programming, by more than 10 percent per year over the next five years. The organization, which produces events such as Downtown Ice, Music in the Park and the Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market among others, intends to lead five new events each year, collaborate with community organizations on another five events annually, and provide consultation to other community event producers for another 10 events.  Lessons learned from these new events will form the basis for recommendations on process improvements for the city with permitting, logistics and other policies.

In addition, several of the 11 Street Life improvement projects initiated since 2014 will be further developed and implemented. The funding will support:

·       Street improvements: Customized art crosswalks that link the pedestrian-only Paseo de San Antonio; installation of an interactive exercise loop in the downtown core; the redesign of the Almaden Boulevard median; and creating a light installation on the city’s Circle of Palms public plaza.

·       Murals: Four different projects for street murals that will engage diverse artist communities in the city;

·       Prototyping: Developing a plan to convert a vacant lot into a usable urban green oasis for residents and their dogs; and a partnership with Walk [Your City], Knight-supported a civic startup that develops online tools that people can use to create street signs, highlighting how easy it is to walk in their city.

·       Research: Conducting a baseline pedestrian count to help measure whether the projects are helping to increase pedestrian activity; and speaking engagements on urban design and street life activation projects.

“Knight Foundation funding will advance our downtown development strategy to create an overall network of inviting public spaces,” said Chris Neale, San Jose Downtown Association president.

“Expansion of the Street Life Project will support the growth of a thriving downtown San Jose, encouraging talented workers to live, work and stay in the city, while motivating people to make connections with their neighbors and get involved in civic life,” said Danny Harris, Knight Foundation program director for San Jose.

Knight Foundation’s initial investment of $150,000 in July 2014 allowed the Downtown Association to hire a Street Life Project manager, who introduced 11 different projects and three public space prototyping experiments involving more than 20 community partners.  This year San Jose Downtown Association was also awarded $139,000 as a winner of the Knight Cities Challenge to test a new method of economic revival focused on bringing activity to the streets by introducing micro-retail shops in the ground floor of a city of San Jose parking garage facing San Pedro Square.

Support from Knight also made possible a call for proposals from community event producers to provide 16 additional days of activities and programming within San Jose’s public spaces.  Some of these events include The Big Lunch, which brings neighbors together to eat, chat and engage around community issues; The Commons, including live music and art performances; and Noon Arts and Lectures, a weekly discussion series focusing on the arts, among others. San Jose Downtown Association was also able to provide consultation on cost-savings and streamlining measures to 20 event producers, 10 of whom produced an event for the first time.

“Downtown is ready for a more aggressive implementation phase,” said Scott Knies, San Jose Downtown Association executive director.

Knight Foundation funds several organizations that work in coordination with San Jose Downtown Association, including SPUR San Jose, San Jose Parks Foundation, American Leadership Forum and The Tech Museum of Innovation.

Funding for these projects forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to support the urbanization of a traditionally sprawling city with a specific focus on Central San Jose and how the city’s core can attract and retain talented people, expand opportunity and build a culture of civic engagement. Since 2008, Knight Foundation has invested more than $21 million in San Jose, including a recent $1.7 million for nonprofit SPUR’s efforts to propel the city’s suburban-to-urban transformation and a $630,000 investment in the arts. 

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more visit,

About San Jose Downtown Association

The San Jose Downtown Association (SJDA) is a nonprofit group of business and property owners working to improve the vitality and livability of downtown San Jose. SJDA focuses on five key areas of work: economic development, urbanism, activation and advocacy, communications and street life.  SJDA advocates on issues that affect downtown business and property owners; enhances the image of downtown and attracts new visitors through year-round marketing, public relations, and special events; and makes improvements to downtown’s cleanliness, security and aesthetics.  For more visit,


Rick Jensen, Communications Director, San Jose Downtown Association, 408-279-1775, ext. 318, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]