SANTA CLARA, Calif. - This Wednesday will see an important gathering of Santa Clarans to explore the possibility of revitalizing an eight-block area that once was its downtown.
It was bulldozed around 1963-64 as part of an urban renewal drive that swept many cities across the United States, wiping out a movie theater and about 120 stores, ranging from delis to bakeries.
The anchor retail store never materialized. Instead, several strip malls and a large parking lot popped up.
Old-timers and a new generation of millennials and Gen-X'ers with extraordinary passion have banded together to convince city leaders that this is the time to create a new downtown in a city that doesn't have a downtown.
A small volunteer group that started out with eight people has grown to 1,800 members with more than 1,000 of them on its Facebook page. They will meet Wednesday evening at City Hall to discuss ideas with the public and with members of the city's revitalize downtown council committee.
"Have you ever noticed," mused committee co-chair Dan Ondrasek, "that when 49ers games are televised nationally, there's never a shot of Santa Clara? They cut to a shot of San Francisco."
Santa Clara has no signature landmark or downtown. Ondrasek is particularly interested in building another theater like the Santa Clara Theatre that once stood downtown with a tall vertical neon sign.
The other co-chair, Rod Dunham, is a history buff and has amassed a lot of public domain photos and details of the old downtown, which was gone by the time he was born in 1966.
Dunham and Ondrasek took ABC7 News on a walking tour of the footprint of the old downtown, pointing out where the old Santa Clara City Hall and the theater once stood. Ondrasek, a trained fine artist, unrolled detailed sketches of what he envisions for the block.
David Louie will show you his vision and share why they want Santa Clara to consider building a new downtown on ABC7 News at 6 p.m. Click here to follow him on Twitter.