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Fanfare, Fun and Free Food at Opening of Historic Franklin Street Mall

Starving Santa Clara University (SCU) students rubbed shoulders with equally hungry local residents, all waiting in line together for free food from the five food trucks at the Franklin Street Festival on Sept. 29. Yes, free food.

“It’s like a farmers market,” commented SCU sophomore Tia Halsey from Los Angeles.

“I worked on campus 50 years, and I don’t recognize it,” said a nostalgic Becky Villarreal, holding onto her walker. “Santa Clara used to be orchards and the university was a boys’ school. The boys dated and married girls from the town.”


The festival celebrated the completion of the block-long Franklin Street pedestrian mall, located on the university campus between Alviso Street and The Alameda. It was co-hosted by SCU, which covered most of the festival costs, and the Old Quad Residents Association (OQRA) (, which is working to rebuild and revitalize downtown Santa Clara.

SCU’s History of Franklin Street explains the historical significance of the street:

“Perhaps no street within the city of Santa Clara is more important than Franklin Street. A part of the original city grid laid out in 1847, it has not changed location in over 150 years….The town…literally grew up around it.”

Although the mall land is owned by the Jesuit Catholic university, the City of Santa Clara holds a permanent right of way along the street. The mall completion is the first phase of a project to restore the entire length of historic Franklin Street.

Bordering the attractively-landscaped mall is the Edward M. Dowd Art and Art History Building, which opened in 2016, and its outdoor sculpture garden, dedicated in 2017. On the northwest side of the street is the Jesuit Residence Community.

Dignitaries attending the festival included SCU’s 28th President, Father Michael Engh, S.J.; Mayor Lisa Gillmor; Council Members Teresa O’Neill, Debi Davis and Kathy Watanabe; and Old Quad Residents Association (OQRA) president Adam Thompson and event co-chair Mark Kelsey. They emphasized the mutual desire to nurture the relationship between campus and town.

“We’re very excited to work with the city and become better neighbors and partners,” said President Engh. He later mentioned that the dedication of SCU’s new law school is at 11 a.m. Oct. 12.

“The opening of Franklin Street further solidifies the partnership between Santa Clara University and the City of Santa Clara. It preserves Santa Clara’s history for generations to come,” said Gillmor, who also thanked OQRA for its commitment and efforts to preserve the heritage of Santa Clara’s downtown.

“The university is working very hard to be a good neighbor,” said OQRA festival co-chair Kelsey. “We’re all beneficiaries of that. All the things the university is doing are making a difference in a more positive relationship between the university, city and neighbors.”

Live music from the three-piece Med’s Mood Swings band attracted a few dancers under the sun. San Jose resident Mamo Kanno and Santa Clara resident Joanne Bruna each took a turn in the arms of Bucky Bronco, SCU’s horse mascot.

Students and residents mingled over their food at round tables with sun umbrellas, white tablecloths and flowers, making it seem like an outdoor wedding reception. The food was so popular that the trucks ran out of Korean BBQ and pizza before the 5 p.m. festival closing.

“It’s important to bring members of the community on campus, to allow both sides to come together to think what more we can do to create a more inclusive neighborhood,” said SCU  senior Eoin Lyons from San Francisco.


1 Comment
  1. Joe 6 years ago

    It would be nice if they paid property tax on all the homes they’ve acquired throughout the old quad area. Nice to have that church exemption.

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