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Building Silicon Valley’s Cultural District

In Culture
BUILDING A CITY: Metro Silicon Valley's Editor in Chief and C2SV founder Dan Pulcrano opened up the discussion on building cultural districts.

BUILDING A CITY: Metro Silicon Valley's Editor in Chief and C2SV founder Dan Pulcrano opened up the discussion on building cultural districts.

The fourth annual Creative Convergence Silicon Valley—C2SV—kicked off Thursday with lively discussions about the future of downtown San Jose, $35 computers and a bunch of great musical performances.

The day started with a talk about how so-called “cultural districts” are born and how they might be maintained without succumbing to the crushing forces of gentrification. Four speakers—Teo Castellanos, Moy Eng, Dr. Ayodele Nzinga and Steven H. Oliver—and moderator Jessica Cusick, looked at examples of cultural districts from around the country.

In nearly every example, artists came into an economically disadvantaged and underserved neighborhood in search of cheap rent. The artists then created a vibrant scene in that neighborhood, drawing wealthier residents and property developers, leading to a spike in rents and the exile of the artists, as well as the poor families originally living in the neighborhood.

Teo Castellano talked about the Wynwood neighborhood, which went from a poor Puerto Rican community to become one of the most trendy corners of Miami. In the process, developers got rich, while many of the artists who helped revitalized the neighborhood got pushed out along with low-income Puerto Rican families.

Right to Wynwood from Right to Wynwood on Vimeo.

The same thing is happening now in West Oakland, according to Dr. Nzinga—a longtime resident of the Lower Bottoms neighborhood there. “West Oakland is not being gentrified,” Nzinga says. “It has been gentrified.”

The speakers then turned their attention to ways that this pattern might be avoided in the future. The implications were clear: as luxury apartments go up all over San Jose, and the city’s downtown becomes ever more saturated with craft cocktail bars and tony restaurants, what will that mean for the local artists who seem to finally be making inroads in a city that has been devoid of art and culture for so long?

“San Jose has the most extraordinary opportunity to be the 21st century city, as far as culture,” Eng said. Only time will tell.

Watch C2SV founder and Metro Silicon Valley’s editor in chief, Dan Pulcrano, delivering his opening remarks:

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