Scott Knies talks downtown San Jose, Google, economic growth, COVID

Scott Knies has been involved in San Jose’s business and economic scene for decades, stints that have been marked by multiple firsts. In 1982, Knies became the first executive director of The Fencing Center, opening the sports club’s first two locations in downtown San Jose. Knies then served as the Alum Rock Business Association Manager in 1986-87, and in 1988 he became the first executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. Knies produced many events to raise downtown San Jose’s profile over the years, including Sharkbyte Art, San Jose America Festival, Music in the Park and Downtown Ice. The last two and a half years of COVID have ravaged city centers around the world, including San Jose’s downtown. But hope is on the horizon with the upcoming launch of Google’s new transit-oriented neighborhood near the Diridon train station. With the downtown at a crossroads of both optimism and uncertainty, this news organization conducted a question and answer exchange with Knies, ahead of his retirement in November after 34 years at the helm of the San Jose Downtown Association.

Q: How badly was downtown San Jose harmed by the pandemic and the business shutdowns?

A: Like other downtowns around the world, it was devastating for San Jose. All of a sudden, there was nobody on the sidewalks. Despite the odds, even during the nadir of the pandemic, we had small businesses open and with the right product and service, they survived.

Q: What has the recovery in the downtown looked like?

A: The pandemic taught us the valuable role residents and students play. At first, the only customers were the residents braving take-out and running errands. Then the schools opened back up. What a boost to have San Jose State and Notre Dame high school students downtown again. The clientele to conventions, business travel, concerts and arts has trickled back.

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Q: What about the office workers?

A: The biggest disruption has been in the return to the office.  It is clear the genie is out of the bottle on work-from-home and we are seeing more of a mid-week, partial return to the offices.

Q: Has downtown San Jose recovered yet?

A: You can be here on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night and the activity has surpassed pre-pandemic levels. But three evenings a week does not sustain a healthy downtown. The summer event season has been super encouraging. However, we need more than episodic events that spike downtown vibrancy. Until we get many more residents living down here and a spike in return to the office by employees, downtown’s mid-week activity will remain soft.

Q: What will it take for a recovery to take place in downtown San Jose?

A: We require all cylinders working together which means students, employees, residents, conventioneers and our arts, entertainment, food and beverage culture all humming at the same time. The other crucial part of the formula is just as fundamental — maintaining the downtown’s cleanliness and safety.

Q: What mistakes were made in dealing with the coronavirus?

A: The Paycheck Protection Program was a godsend, …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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