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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND VISUALIZING THE SPEED OF SOUND


OED’s mission is to drive a vital and competitive economy that increases prosperity and quality of life for our residents and businesses. In today’s Silicon Valley, that means more than good transit, available real estate and reasonable housing costs. It also means helping to grow America’s 10th largest city into an urban environment that appeals to the millennial workforce that most businesses are chasing.

Art and public life are a big part of that environment. I recently met with a college sophomore “extern” who was planning to major in marketing communications, and who was investigating how that career could be pursued inside a municipality. I described the identity program OED has been working on, designed to better position San José as a “real city” with its own identity and appeal. Her response was immediate. “Oh, for sure – everybody I know wants to live in a city, with the nightlife and shopping and a 24/7 vibe.”

We’re still quite far from that 24/7 vibe, but an art installation currently being enjoyed on City Hall Plaza is making a statement that millennials, among other generations, find intriguing and engaging. Sonic Runway has proved to be extremely popular from its debut in early November, 2017. We have just announced that this art installation that originated in Burning Man will be extended through March 9, 2018. The media coverage of the launch of Sonic Runway has helped keep visitors coming — coverage including KNTV, KTVU, Metro and the Mercury News.

Sonic Runway is large enough to hold its own in City Hall Plaza’s monumental, stylized environment. The artwork is simple but subtle, bold and nuanced, engaging and large-scale. When dusk gathers and the two-block-long tunnel of 32 arches of LEDS starts pulsing waves of light synchronized to a soundtrack, people just gather, wander and hang out. It’s become an instant public space, where before the Plaza was essentially a place to walk through.

Every night, we see people catching selfies and videos all along the full 1,000 feet of Sonic Runway. Kids dash back and forth, couples get engaged, tourists linger and watch as the display slows rush-hour traffic, and City Hall workers heading home tend to bop along to the music. With the addition of this art piece, City Hall Plaza has finally become a part of our city’s public life. And part of a thriving urban center.

We invite all San Joseans to visit Sonic Runway before March 8, and especially every Thursday at 6 pm, when the Office of Cultural Affairs presents a live musical experience that drives the Runway light show. At the very least, it’s an awesome spot for a selfie!