Downtown San Jose’s Post Street has a colorful and storied history — an area once known as a local watering hole lined with saloons and gambling halls, and more recently, the city’s unofficial home for Pride celebrations. Now, the city is taking another step forward in its evolution with the Qmunity District, a welcoming, inclusive, and affirming new district that showcases the history, culture, and diversity of the queer community. Much like The Castro in San Francisco or West Hollywood in Los Angeles, the city now has its own place for the LGBTQIA+ community to call home.
A sleepy street with half-closed businesses and two gay bars that liven up on the weekends was the perfect canvas for establishing queer culture. The first LGBTQIA+ district in the city, the area of Post Street between First and Market streets will not only showcase LGBTQIA+ diversity, expression, talent, history and cultural arts, but it will also be welcoming for LGBTQIA+ visitors, allied businesses, residents, and visitors of all types.
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Initially, the scope of the Pride on Post project, which was a partnership with the San Jose Downtown Association, Project MORE, and the City of San Jose, with pro bono design by Gensler, was supposed to be a lighting update/redesign using existing lighting, with minor updates, including banners and possibly a crosswalk. Gensler helped create a vision space for the project, including imagery, branding, and color palettes.
The project quickly evolved to encompass much more; to create community with a focus on diversity and inclusion. As the concepts grew from the nightlife of the area and the ideals of contrast, black, and colors of pride, it was apparent that this was going to be much bigger. The chosen concept was Kaleidoscope, a bold series of crossing bands of colors resembling all walks of life, honing in on queer culture.
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The three phased approach allowed the team to explore layering of ideas and scope. The extraordinary focus on budget concentrated lighting plans to the reuse of Christmas lights that could be controlled via an app. The team worked on many iterations of color, lighting, and layering on scope and program throughout the months leading up to the COVID crisis. Amid the backdrop of the pandemic and racial justice protests, the project’s focus became increasingly more about race and equality for all.
The city also worked to create what they called “Qmunity” — a group focused on Post Street area improvements and events celebrating queer culture. Over the first phase of the project, many events have been celebrated, murals illustrating queer culture and the gay rights movement adorn the black walls, and hope instills future projects to create a solid queer district. A large mural stating “We are Qmunity” is emblazed upon a wall under a new mural of former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Multiple colors cross each other at different points along the crosswalks, representing all races, creeds, and backgrounds.
For the first time ever, San Jose has a Pride district, and a LGBTQIA+ hub. The city has an air of hope and equality. The run-down street with two gay bars has been painted black with crossing colors of optimism and hope, statements of pride, and stories of fighting bigotry.
The collaboration between the city, San Jose Downtown Association, Gensler, Project MORE, and Qmunity will ensure that San Jose will never be the same. Now there is a place in San Jose for the LGBTQIA+ community that encourages and celebrates visibility and hope in all minority groups.
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