SoFAmural

The SoFA (South First Area) district in downtown San Jose is a diverse mix of arts organizations and businesses that demonstrate the unique and creative character of the city. 1stACT Silicon Valley has been working with the district for over three years to create a place that is open, inviting, pedestrian-friendly and activated with engaging programming year round. ArtPlace is supporting the capstone project of this effort—the transformation of a small pocket park in the district into an “outdoor living room” for the adjacent arts organizations and neighborhoods.

ArtPlace asked Erika Justis, director of creative place for 1stACT, about the project and the complexity of working with numerous public and private entities.

ArtPlace: What unexpected challenges have you faced thus far?

Justis: Gore Park is a small space with a lot of potential. In order to increase its size, connect it to the arts organizations next to it, and implement “pavement to plaza” principles we decided to close a block of the street. This brought a level of complexity with City departments and property owners that was greater than we originally expected.

ArtPlace: Any happy surprises to date?

Justis: It’s been really inspiring to see how the district and the City have rallied around the project. Many people have stepped up with donated services to leverage ArtPlace’s support, and the district businesses and organizations are thinking creatively about how they can use the space to make SoFA the destination they envision.

ArtPlace: Are there lessons you’ve learned that could help others?

Justis: Any community place making project will involve a diverse mix of people with various goals, needs and fears. It’s incredibly important to co-create the vision for the project and ensure that the different entities feel ownership of the results, a common vision that everyone can point to will weather the storm of implementation.

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