UPDATE: San Jose council wants iconic landmark in the heart of downtown

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San Jose officials are considering bringing a towering landmark to a downtown park.

The promoters of the “The Breeze of Innovation”—a design that would use hundreds of swaying rods powered by wind to light up at night atop a viewing platform and cafe—want to build the landmark at Plaza de Cesar Chavez. The San Jose City Council unanimously agreed to study whether the proposed location works and to create a master plan to improve the park.

“I think it is a given that the 10th largest city should have a (landmark),” Councilmember Arjun Batra said. “But we have to study more than just adding the Breeze of Innovation… what is going to be around it?”

The structure is a gift by developer Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, also known as the Light Tower Corporation, in an effort to bring in a landmark to the city. The Breeze of Innovation was first proposed in May 2021 for the Arena Green where Guadalupe River Park and Los Gatos Creek meet. Since then, the project has become expensive and complicated. The price tag has swelled between $100 million to $200 million, and there are environmental concerns delaying the process.

Jon Cicirelli, director of parks, neighborhoods and recreational services, said Plaza de Cesar Chavez would be a great location because it’s San Jose’s “true center” and is walking distance from several city sites. The plaza already serves as the location for multiple citywide events, including Christmas in the Park and the San Jose Jazz Festival. Meanwhile, Arena Green is not regularly used and is close to Guadalupe River and impacted by the noise and flight path of planes flying into San Jose Mineta International Airport.

However, despite environmental concerns remedied by a move to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, some residents worry about the cost.

“It is an honor to be offered this gift, but it comes at a considerable cost both in land and money,” said Larry Ames, chair of the District 6 Leadership Group. “It is well-loved and well-used, and in fact they are trying to figure out how to have more people at the various events (at the plaza).”

Councilmember Pam Foley said it would be a “dream” to have an iconic landmark in the city’s center—and even though there is pushback from residents, she believes the landmark would ultimately be loved by the community.

“When the Eiffel Tower was built, it was not accepted by the community. But now it is an icon and has been for hundreds of years,” Foley said. “I’m in tremendous support of moving (the Breeze of Innovation) to Plaza de Cesar Chavez.”

Mayor Mahan Mahan said bringing the project to the plaza could kickstart other improvements. He’d like to see the plaza expand by reducing the traffic lanes nearby, installing permanent or semi-permanent event infrastructure and expanding and upgrading the outdoor stage and amphitheater.

“It is a public spirited vision,” Mahan said. “(The developers) are really thinking about the common good of our city and I think there is a lot of potential here.”

Other officials said the move could also be an impetus to further develop the park. It would be part of a larger vision to redesign and connect the six blocks between the Guadalupe River and San Jose State University, supporting an east-west walking path and bikeway that guides visitors through the Center for Performing Arts, The Tech, Westbank/Urban Community’s Park Habitat, Jay Paul’s 200 Park and CityView projects, Signia by Hilton, Urban Catalyst’s Paseo—formerly Camera 12—the Hammer Theatre and the paseo shops.

Steve Borkenhagen, executive director of the Light Tower Corporation, said bringing the landmark to the plaza means restructuring and revamping the area.

“There is no park design or even (final) Breeze of Innovation design yet. All of these are just ideas,” Borkenhagen said. “We intend to work hand in hand with (stakeholders and the city) to both raise money and execute (improvement plans) because these things should happen together, not one at a time.”

Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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