‘Despicable gift’ or ‘iconic structure?’ New downtown San Jose landmark OK’d depsite backlash

What was intended as a gift aimed at attracting positive attention and creating an iconic downtown destination in the nation’s tenth largest city has become a point of division and contention for some vocal residents of San Jose.

Despite backlash from dozens of residents and environmental advocates, San Jose leaders have decided to move forward with plans for a new downtown landmark that they hope significantly enhances the area for Silicon Valley residents and visitors.

The proposed structure, known as “Breeze of Innovation,” was selected in March as the top choice among three finalists by the 14-member jury assembled by Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, the nonprofit group created to spearhead the effort. In all, a total of 963 proposals were submitted from 72 countries around the world.

Designed by Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio, the 200-foot-tall proposed structure, which will be located at the southern end of Guadalupe River Park, consists of 500 steel rods that will sway gently in the wind and generating power to illuminate it at night. The public art display will feature multiple levels of walkways, a cafe, an exhibit space and a viewing platform that should offer expansive views of the valley.

SMAR Architecture Studio wrote that its design aims to create a landmark that promotes the harvesting of clean energy, “in order to trigger, to change perception, to question reality… to inspire.”

The structure will be gifted to the city by the San Jose Light Tower Corporation, an organization that began an effort nearly five years ago to build an artistically inspired iconic landmark meant to pay tribute to San Jose’s former lighthouse, which stood downtown from 1881 to 1915. With the city council’s unanimous approval, the corporation will begin a fundraising effort to cover the cost to build and maintain the structure — a price tag estimated at up to $150 million.

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The project must still return to the city council several more times before any shovels are in the dirt. And, city leaders need to sign off on the project fundraising plan, a gift acceptance agreement that will outline the expectations of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation, approval of the project’s final design, an environmental impact report and a business and maintenance management plan.

A rendering of “Breeze of Innovation” by Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio, which was chosen as the design for Urban Confluence Silicon Valley’s planned landmark at the Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

Opponents of the proposed landmark wrote and called into Tuesday night’s city council meeting to urge city leaders to reject the planned design, calling it an “ecological disaster,” “despicable gift,” “harmful source of light pollution,” and “waste of philanthropic dollars.” They argued that the nighttime illumination would cause light pollution that would not only be harmful to the local wildlife but community members living nearby as well.

Dashiell Leeds of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter said if built, the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Latest News

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