Franklin Forward

A community-driven placemaking initiative to reclaim Franklin Street with art and activation

Downtown, Santa Clara

Rebooting Santa Clara's Downtown with a true reflection of its diversity

Since the loss of its downtown in 1963, Santa Clara has struggled to achieve a sense of community and belonging. Creating a place that encourages social interaction within our extraordinarily diverse community is the foundational mission of our project. Franklin Forward builds on the momentum created by other grassroots community groups who are collectively advocating for City leadership to rebuild the downtown. This “tactical urbanism” project will become the first building block of our new downtown as an "in the meantime" public space, while the formal development process happens in the background. Our goal is to reboot Santa Clara's downtown, reflect our diversity, and foster a growing arts district for Silicon Valley.

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The Story

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The Santa Clara Valley has evolved from a thriving agricultural community in the 1800s to the Silicon Valley of today, attracting people from all over the world. Santa Clara had a vibrant small downtown centered on Franklin Street. But by the 1960s, downtown was struggling to compete with the auto-oriented shopping centers and lifestyle of the time. The City identified eight downtown blocks as blighted and proposed redevelopment. Streets, buildings, and shops that had been there for generations were razed to the ground in 1963. Most of downtown remained empty for decades, followed by the piecemeal development that exists today.

Demolished in the 1960s as part of an urban renewal project, downtown was never rebuilt and remains a paved-over parking lot to this day. However, after a strong push from community groups, the City Council has appointed a Downtown Community Task Force and sponsored urban planning consultants WRT to create a Precise Plan to rebuild the downtown.

Before 1963

Santa Clara had what was in many ways a typical American small-town main street district, with storefronts lining the sidewalks and a mix of 1- to 3-story buildings. Franklin Street was the primary east-west promenade from the railway station, through the university, into the central business district. It was the site of the annual Cherry Carnivale Parade, celebrating the cherry industry in Santa Clara and Santa Clara Valley as early as 1914.


By the early 1960s, downtown appears to have been struggling with competition from shopping centers and the rise of a car-oriented lifestyle. In 1963, Santa Clara City Council voted for the Urban Renewal Project, to clear eight blocks of downtown to make way for what was hoped would become a modern shopping and business center. Demolition occurred in 1965. The loss of Franklin Street has been a sore spot and an example of blight in the heart of Santa Clara.

Today 2021

Today, downtown includes approximately 350,000 square feet of commercial and office space and 190 residential units. Important elements include the Franklin Square commercial center and plaza; the historic Post Office; the County Courthouse; and Commerce Plaza office building. along Franklin Street. The street grid does not exist and is mostly a surface parking lot.


The City Council sponsored a Downtown Revitalization Visioning Project in 2015-2017 and later sponsored a Downtown Precise Plan in 2019. When adopted the Precise Plan will become the regulatory document governing the future development, including land use, density, design guidelines, placemaking, mobility and retail elements. The city will then release publicly owned land to a private developer to build the new downtown.


Our mission is to promote cohesive community building through collaborative art and placemaking. We strive for creating inclusive public spaces that reflect the cultural diversity of our community.

Community building through collaborative participative art

Our mission is to bring the community together to reclaim Franklin Street with public art and honor the history which was lost in 1963.

Reflective of our community's diversity

Our mission is to provide the community a shared place to collect, connect & celebrate. An all inclusive public space serving youth to seniors, families, students, residents, visitors and under-eserved people of our city.

Foster the return of a vibrant
art community

Our mission is to foster emerging underserved local artists by providing them a shared public space to engage with the community.

Our Community Partners

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