Santa Clara Will Soon Get an “Uptown” and a Revitalized “Downtown” (Maybe)

By Robert Haugh

Last night, about 100 residents packed the city council chambers for a Downtown Revitalization Committee meeting.

Many of the attendees were among the 1,800 members of the Facebook group “reclaiming our downtown” co-founded by Santa Clarans Rod Dunham and Dan Ondrasek.


The duo has been working for a year and a half on creating a vision for the 8-block area of Downtown Santa Clara. Among their key elements:

  • protecting current businesses and residents,
  • creating a walkable downtown area where people can live and work,
  • retaining the original street grid of downtown Santa Clara,
  • bringing a trolley back to Franklin Street,
  • and “creating a place, not a project.”

Over a dozen residents spoke passionately about revitalizing the Downtown area.


For nearly 55 years, the Mission City has been without a downtown area. In a few years, The Related Companies City Place development will be a major gathering place for Santa Clarans and others. But since it’s in the Northside, we should call it “Uptown.” The Old Quad has long been without a central gathering place or a “Downtown.”

Frank Fuller and Heidi Sokolowsky of Urban Field presented a draft vision of downtown revitalization plans.


Santa Clara University has been revitalizing part of Franklin Street and shares many similar concepts to the group pushing for revitalization.

While the attendees were overwhelmingly supportive of revitalizing the Mission City’s Downtown, it’s a long process with many barriers.


There are approximately a dozen different property owners in the area, although several have expressed interest in revitalization efforts. A few residents inquired about costs and financing. There was no information about cost, or who would assemble the land if necessary.  The next step is completing the vision plan, then forming a task force. The vision includes adding a new theater/community center (to resemble the original Santa Clara Theater), an new civic gathering place/plaza, a museum reflecting the City’s history, retail, residential and key architectural designs that are a throwback to the original downtown.

If you’re interested, here are some links:

Reclaiming Our Downtown Facebook group

Hosam Haggag’s live feed of last night’s meeting.

Five-minute meeting highlight video by Malcolm High

City of Santa Clara’s downtown revitalization page (it needs some updates)

Video on Downtown Santa Clara revitalization efforts by CBS:




  1. Can someone explain the “raised intersection” value? Financing is clearly an obstacle. Highly valued housing will have to underwrite other desired aspects that don’t pencil out. The “Downtown Gateway” project under construction suggests it can be done. The City must facilitate by reducing costly fees and time wasting delays that suck the life out of prospective developers.

  2. We need more roads to ease traffic or start kicking people out because theres way too many people and not enough space to go around.

  3. Robert, thanks for the summary.
    I tried to get a larger image of the existing and proposed plan on FB but no luck. Do you have one you could share or link to?

  4. The pictures are pretty. But it’s really a big stretch to say this is a “plan.” It’s a “concept” unless it has financing. I’m retired from commercial real estate. I can tell you that no one finances small scale-retail like what’s envisioned here. We’re in the Age of Amazon, not small bookstores. Unless the city of Santa Clara has millions of dollars burning a hole in their pockets, they won’t finance a parking garage or theater and museum, either. Those things don’t pay for themselves.

  5. Thank you Robert for including this historical moment for our city of Santa Clara. I now see a new picture of this new and current downtown we have in our vibrant city – culture, everyday events and parades, dining, local small businesses, everyday living for our residents – I am proud to be a Santa Claran. It is here. We help each other.

  6. Thanks for all the info, Robert. This is very interesting. I hope it happens. But you have raised an important question. Who is going to pay for all of this?

  7. Robert…thank you for the article on last nights meeting. Being the first real ‘open’ meeting with a lot of the folks who have signed up being interested in this I think it came off very well. You have made excellent points as far as items yet to be done. For sure there are obstructions along this road at present but as this movement grows these items will be overcome and will be visible. I feel it will turn out to be the :”Downtown” that Santa Claran’s do want. Thank you again for your coverage!

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