Knight Foundation Gives $1M to Boost Downtown San Jose

The city of San Jose is receiving a $1 million foundation grant to help create a more vibrant downtown for residents and visitors.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced it will provide the funds over a five-year period and work with the San Jose Downtown Association to build a downtown that is “innovative, vibrant, equitable and inclusive,” city leaders said.

“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.

The city and Knight Foundation partnership will use data to provide insight for city planners to better develop the downtown - a project they are calling the Beautiful Tableau.

The main areas of focus: Santa Clara Street from the Diridon Station to City Hall; the areas between the Historic District and South First Area (SoFA); routes to and from Guadalupe River Park; and on Park Avenue between Market Street and Almaden Boulevard.

It will gather information to help fill empty storefronts and enhance merchandising in already existing stores. The partnership also seeks to populate pedestrian paths with favored native plants, identify sites for more public art and establish temporary art on fencing that separates people from large construction projects.

“The definition of 'tableau' is a memorable and dramatic image or scene,” said Sarah Billings, San Jose Downtown Association's 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.”

The Beautiful Tableau project will start small with expectations to grow more over the years as the downtown association works with executives, business and property owners, artists, investors, developers and others to gather input on project decisions.

It will build off the two other grants by the Knight Foundation to the San Jose Downtown Association.

One of the grantsts was a five-year Street Life initiative completed in June 2020 that eventually turned into a full-time program sustained through the Property Business Improvement. Through the five years, there were several decorative and landscape improvements made in downtown including colorful crosswalks, LED lightning and murals.

The other initiative was the MOMENT project that added four ground-floor retail spaces in San Pedro Square in 2018, providing a space for 15 entrepreneurs to test their concepts in a storefront.

“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,” Chloe Shipp, SJDA Director of Public Space Operations said.

She said with this new initiative, “we're reaching for a higher bar of excitement and vivacity than we've ever experienced.”

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




  1. It never ceases to amaze me how the folks at the SJDA and the City of San José buy their own bullsh*t.

    The saving grace here is that these soon-to-be wasted funds come from the Knight Foundation; at least the taxpayer won’t be hosed again.

    Billions of dollars have been poured into downtown San Jose since Frank Taylor was redevelopment tsar and Tom McEnery was mayor, and San Jose remains a provincial, bush league “town”, even though it is the 10th largest city in the United States. The architecture is uninspiring, and the food scene is a desert for anyone who possesses a sophisticated palate. The art community struggles more than it should for a city of San Jose’s size, and this has been made exponentially worse–to the googol one might say–with the influx of high-tech philistines who call it, San Jose, home.

  2. Hey lets “reimagine” downtown! This horse dung has been going on since the light rail was built through downtown and the pavilion was built. Nothing has improved!

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