On Post Street in downtown San Jose, in the new Qmunity district between Market Street and North 1st Street, rainbow flags and paintings have appeared, along with new maple trees and lighting.
Soon, at least three murals showcasing LGBTQ+ pride will decorate the walls of businesses.
What happens next in Qmunity is up to residents who can offer their input in a survey by district organizers.
“I always knew this was a very special street,” said TJ Bruce, owner of Splash Video Dance Bar at Post and Lightston Alley. “It does feel a lot like home for a lot of LGBTQ+ people. It’s a very special place and I think what’s happening here is going to make it much, much more special to everyone.”
The district will showcase LGBTQ diversity, expression, talent, history and cultural arts, said Nathan Svoboda, president of the Project MORE Foundation, one of the groups behind the creation of the district. Qmunity also will promote LGBTQ and ally businesses, organizations and residences, Svoboda added.
“This will not only enliven the corridor and increase foot traffic for all of our local business owners but finally reaffirm that this is a place of inclusion for people from all walks of life,” said District 3 Councilmember Raul Peralez.
The idea began with “a conversation, an idea to create a permanent space, someplace with an identity,” Peralez said. He said he hoped it would not only make a statement but create a place that represents inclusivity and permanency.
The initial phase of redesign and marketing for Post Street ran about $66,000, with most of the funding coming from the city.
Directors from Project MORE and Qmunity are now seeking mural painters to create artwork on building walls lining the district. Applications can also be filled out on the district’s website.
Svoboda said Qmunity will soon hold virtual sessions inviting business owners, residents, LGBTQ+ community members and more to weigh in on what they’d like to see. After a couple months of surveying and listening sessions, Qmunity will have its master plan. The cost of developing that and executing it is unknown becasue that plan hasn’t yet been developed.
“We know it’s going to be expensive,” Svoboda said. He also acknowledged its unlikely to get city or county funding and much of the financing will likely have to come from private donors, grants, and other sources.
Maribel Martinez, director of the office of LGBTQ Affairs for Santa Clara County, noted the broader themes Qmunity represents.
“Even in progressive, innovative Silicon Valley people have felt as thought they had to hide or whisper who they are,” said Martinez. “They feel unsafe and long for community. I often get asked if there is an LGBTQ community here. My answer is yes, of course, but the safe spaces are hard to find.”
Martinez advocated for members of the community to support each other through this project.
“We must be so out that there is no space for hate,” Martinez said. “In the bleakest moments, this is a rainbow amid the storm.”