By Natalie Hanson, San Jose Spotlight
For more than a year, San Jose residents have awaited news on a proposed downtown landmark on public park land. The latest update has the location shifting to a more urban environment.
In a presentation to the city's Neighborhood Services and Education Committee last week, Nicolle Burnham, deputy director of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, said developer Urban Confluence Silicon Valley is considering a different location for the "Breeze of Innovation:" Plaza de Cesar Chavez.
"Breeze of Innovation," proposed for Arena Green at the confluence of Guadalupe River Park and Los Gatos Creek, got the green light from the City Council in May 2021. The landmark's design would use 500 swaying rods powered by wind to light up at night atop a viewing platform that includes a café. But the project has become expensive and complicated. The price tag has swelled between $100-$200 million, and there are also environmental concerns delaying the process.
Parks spokesperson Daniel Lazo said Urban Confluence Silicon Valley didn't explain the rationale behind the decision to move locations, and an updated proposal is scheduled for September. The developer's Executive Director Steve Borkenhagen declined to comment.
Only $3 million of the needed $100-$200 million has been raised by Urban Confluence, Burnham said.
While plans are still up in the air for the Breeze installation, a local architect firm is proposing a cheaper, nostalgic alternative.
Ramiro Torres, president of TOPA Architecture, has a vision for a sculpture of the city's historic Electric Tower, using metal and non-reflective stainless steel.
"Our proposal is to rebuild the Light Tower in its original location of Market and Santa Clara Streets," Torres told San José Spotlight. "The new light tower can be paid by VTA/BART and the city of San Jose since it is adjacent to the future BART station."
Torres' co-designer at TOPA, Geno Catalano, said the Electric Tower design took about a year to put together after taking inspiration from the St. Louis Arch.
"This is something we didn't do as a singular project—it started over the height of quarantine," Catalano said.
Torres said the Breeze of Innovation design "doesn't mean anything to the people of San Jose," adding what TOPA is proposing is cultural and iconic. He said this week he'll be able to share more renderings of the proposal with the city, BART and VTA. He estimates the cost at $25 million.
Lazo said the city is not aware of Torres' proposal or others being submitted.
"This project was a council-approved international competition that concluded almost a year ago, and Breeze was selected," Lazo said.
Sierra Club's Loma Prieta chapter has opposed Breeze of Innovation for years. Director James Eggers said they support moving the project away from Arena Green to Diridon Station at 65 Cahill Street, or the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, to avoid disturbance to wildlife. However, they do not want any lit structure.
"A light tower anywhere is going to be damaging to the health of both humans and wildlife, and we see from historic reports the original light tower was damaging," Eggers told San José Spotlight.
District 6's Neighborhood Leaders Group wrote to the Neighborhood Services and Education Committee opposing the project due to wildlife habitat concerns. They also opposed using Plaza de Cesar Chavez due to that site's history of hosting outdoor concerts and proximity to the Tech Interactive, the Civic Center and the Convention Center.
"San Jose doesn't need to build a landmark: we're already known worldwide as 'Silicon Valley, the Hub of Innovation,'" the group wrote. "We already have the oldest city park in California and soon a world-class trail network, and, if we really need an instantly recognizable iconic building unique to San Jose, we also already have our own famous City Hall Rotunda and Plaza."
Contact Natalie Hanson at email@example.com or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.
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