San Jose’s public life to get a boost from Knight Foundation grant

San José will benefit from a recently announced grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, providing $249,600 to help the City learn best practices for making public spaces into active hubs that connect the community and improve civic life.

The grant was made to Gehl Studio, Inc. – international experts in civic engagement – for a six-month project that will involve most of the City’s departments.

“We are really excited to start work immediately with Gehl to create an integrated, innovative approach to San José’s public life,” said Kim Walesh, Director of Economic Development. “Not only will Gehl provide world-class guidance to help staff throughout the City become better at making our public spaces more lively and fun, but we will benefit for years to come from the invaluable guidebooks they will draft just for San José.”

A sense of Gehl’s approach is their multi-year contract in San Francisco on the transit- and traffic-heavy Market Street area. This project required helping the city change its priority from maximizing traffic flow to creating real human-scale places for people to gather, relax, learn and interact.  Three different design options were presented for an Environment Impact Review. The three options distribute space along the street differently between pedestrians, cyclists, private cars and public transport access. These concrete street designs make the potential of different priorities in planning the street very visible, enabling people to make an informed choice.

The options are part of a vision of a new Market Street with lively public squares, sidewalks full of cafés, good maneuverability for pedestrians and cyclists, and more efficient and reliable public transport. The detailed design options and proposals are all aimed at creating a comfortable, accessible and sustainable place that improves the legibility and comfort of moving along the street, but also provides invitations to spend time for those travelling on foot, by bike and via public transport.

OED is spearheading the City’s involvement in the project. Details on the grants awarded this year are in the Knight Foundation’s news release on the grants – it will be exciting to see what Gehl’s analysis and training can create in San Jose!