8 San Jose Finalists Named in Knight Cities Challenge

After sorting through thousands of applicants vying for a piece of some $5 million in grants, the Knight Foundation has narrowed the field to 158. Eight of those finalists are from San Jose.

Pitches from San Jose include opening up canal trails to bicyclists and pedestrians, converting an East Side street into a “linear park” and launching a recurring night market.

The Knight Foundation asked applicants to submit ideas that would help their own city attract new talent, improve civic engagement and increase economic opportunity. Some 4,500 people responded from 26 target communities throughout the nation.

Cayce Hill, director of farm-to-fork nonprofit Veggielution, proposed an urban food hub at Emma Prusch Park, where vendors could sell fresh produce and residents could sign up for classes to learn about the region’s agricultural history.

Jerry Gao, who teaches computer engineering at San Jose State University, wants to create a “smart street” that showcases cutting-edge technology and bolsters the city’s identity as the purported capital of Silicon Valley.

Cycling advocate Justin Triano pitched an idea for an ongoing night market on Post Street for local artisans, food vendors and entertainers.

Urban planner Leemor Chandally, who leads a group of planners and designers called URBAN SPACEship, suggested a network of modular street furniture to galvanize social interaction in public spaces.

San Jose Made’s Marie Millares hopes to boost homegrown businesses through an incubator for local makers and artists who want to turn their passion into a full-time job.

Marybeth Harasz, of the city of San Jose’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Department, submitted another project idea for the East Side: turning Havana Drive into a public park.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s new director, Shiloh Ballard, asked for funding to permanently open the trails along San Jose’s closed canal system for cyclists and pedestrians.

Tamara Alvarado, who runs the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, proposed The MayFeria, which would include folk-life events, a community taskforce and a coordinator to make better use of cultural and civic assets.

Winners will be announced in the spring. This year marks the second time the Knight Foundation has offered grant money as part of a three-year $15 million commitment.

“The finalists reflect what the Knight Cities Challenge is about: uncovering new civic innovators and motivating people to realize ideas—big and small—that can contribute to the success of their cities,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives.

Last year, Knight announced 32 winners in the inaugural Cities Challenge. Two were from San Jose: San Pedro Squared, which would turn part of a downtown parking garage into a market, and Houslets, which would built tiny modular homes.

Tim McCormick, who won $40,000 for the Houslets project, told San Jose Inside that the Knight Foundation pulled his funding without explaining why. Nearly a year later, as of today, the Knight Foundation continued to list Houslets as a grant winner on its website.

"I can confirm that Houslets was named a winner of the Knight Cities Challenge in 2015 and to keep with journalistic practices we don’t typically modify our announcements after the fact," Knight spokeswoman Anusha Alikhan responded to a query about Houslets. "Knight Foundation does not comment about grant applications or negotiations."

McCormick said that after a national jury awarded his project the grant money, the foundation solicited a new proposal from the city of San Jose's Housing Department. He said that $40,000 the foundation publicly announced as an award for Houslets was then redirected to the city's project called Housing 2.0.

To see the full list of finalists from around the country, click here.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

One Comment

  1. Do you think the Knight Foundation will ever have a grant to remove old signage from discontinued business” that are n longer around? A great candidate would be the Knight Ridder sign atop the Fairmont office building which by the way got special variance of the city’s strict sign ordinance to be put up in the first place.

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