Since 2014, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has organized the Knight Cities Challenge as a way to promote civic engagement in 26 invested communities, including San Jose. The challenge encourages innovators to propose concepts centered around making cities more successful in attracting and keeping creative talent. These ideas are directed at bringing together the diverse members of the community in order to generate more unity. This year, $5 million is being awarded to 33 projects in 19 cities across the country—two of those projects are here in San Jose.
Reimagining the City: City Designer for San Jose
The Reimagining the City project will allow the City of San Jose to hire an experienced city designer to spearhead projects throughout the City of San Jose that focus on strong urban design principles and quality public life experiences, beginning with the redevelopment of the Diridon Station rail hub. Shaunn Mendrin worked with several city departments to coordinate the Knight Cities Challenge grant application to make this project possible.
With the rapidly growing population of San Jose, there is a growing demand for efficient and accessible alternatives to automobiles. The rail station area is the perfect junction to target for improvements to streetscape features and public spaces that will enhance walkability. The City of San Jose hopes to build on its momentum of success with other smaller projects by supporting the urban design of the Diridon Station Area redevelopment, which already has an investment of $8 billion.
In addition to the Diridon Station Area project, the city designer will create a clear and detailed plan for incorporating people-focused urban design strategies into plans for the downtown core. Working across several city departments and with external groups, such as SPUR and the San Jose Downtown Association, the city designer will aim to attract residents, businesses, and visitors to a vibrant, urban San Jose.
Local Color by Exhibition District
Local Color, a project of the Exhibition District, creatively utilizes abandoned buildings to construct platforms for artists. Currently, San Jose is home to only a few expensive, social neighborhoods, as new building construction is focused towards the increasing need for housing. However, outdated buildings are often vacant for an average of five years before they are demolished, allowing these areas to become targets for criminal activity. Local Color is looking to transform this situation into an opportunity to stimulate and connect the creative community.
Local Color aims to temporarily take advantage of cheap spaces by filling them with organized networking events, exhibitions, or workshops. The impermanence of the art galleries—maybe a few months to a few years—brings together all backgrounds with a common passion. A collaborative effort of appealing designs is underway in several locations throughout downtown San Jose and available to the public to observe local artists. Moreover, the affordable nature further encourages creatives to craft their trade. With the support of the Knight Foundation, Exhibition District director Erin Salazar is refocusing San Jose’s attention and bringing a splash of color to otherwise seemingly dreary neighborhoods.
Written by Rashi Gupta
Photography by Daniel Garcia