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Nonprofit raises 6 figures for proposed landmark in Silicon Valley

SAN JOSE, Calif. (BCN)– Three years after unveiling an ambitious proposal to build a world-class landmark in Silicon Valley, organizers on Tuesday raised $170,000 to bring the plan one step closer to reality. Leaders from Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, the nonprofit behind the project, also announced this week the proposed landmark in downtown San Jose will now include a stage for live music.

The monument, titled Breeze of Innovation, has moved to a new location at Plaza de Cesar Chavez and will honor Cesar Chavez’s legacy while celebrating the energy of Silicon Valley. In addition to an outdoor concert space, the developers revealed they’re working with board members from the Cesar Chavez Foundation and Chavez Family Vision.

“What this city is lacking is really a major destination, a place, for us to all go,” said Gabriel Medina, vice president of Chavez Family Vision and Chavez’s grand-nephew, during the Tuesday fundraiser. “By having the Breeze of Innovation in the park, by having a venue in the park, and by having a monument to my Tío Cesar, this will be the destination.

Plaza de Cesar Chavez will be the destination for people to come.” Urban Confluence must also work with a new city council and mayor in January to get the location and proposed changes approved.

The project, described as San Jose’s equivalent to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge or the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has faced multiple challenges from the opposition of environmental groups to a lack of funding. The project was first proposed for Arena Green in downtown San Jose and came with a staggering $100 million price tag.

Urban Confluence had raised $3 million before Tuesday’s fundraiser. It’s unclear how much more they’ll need to bring the landmark to life.

Moving the monument to Plaza de Cesar Chavez was in response to community feedback and environmental concerns over a large structure affecting the wildlife at Arena Green, located near Guadalupe River Park, organizers said. To create an iconic landmark in America’s 10th largest city, Urban Confluence launched an international design competition in 2019 that garnered nearly 1,000 submissions.

The group announced the winning design, Breeze of Innovation, last year. It features hundreds of swaying rods originally proposed to be 200 feet high that will light up at night and generate electricity.

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The proposed relocation moves the installation from District 6 to District 3. Project leaders are working with Chavez family members to ensure the activist’s legacy is represented, potentially having educational components about Chavez’s life near the monument, said Urban Confluence Executive Director Steve Borkenhagen.

“Breeze of Innovation can be the inspirational landmark that San Jose and Silicon Valley have been lacking for over 100 years,” Borkenhagen told San Jose Spotlight on Monday. “The entire park honors Cesar Chavez, and our goal is to make it an internationally significant destination in the heart of a major city.”

The monument’s location in San Jose is particularly meaningful. Chavez began his work as a community organizer in the city working on issues like voter’s rights.

“(The landmark) is likely to attract people from all throughout the world,” Andres Chavez, executive director of the National Chavez Center and Chavez’s grandson, told San Jose Spotlight. “We’d be having folks from all over learning about his work, and it helps us expand his legacy.

Project leaders intend to hit the ground running early next year to greenlight the location change, said Borkenhagen. The smaller venue will alter the design and reduce the installation’s carbon footprint, but Borkenhagen could not say whether it will reduce costs.

Environmentalists are cautiously optimistic about the landmark’s new home but worry that light pollution could still confuse and harm birds, insects and other wildlife. Project leaders will need to do another environmental review to analyze possible impacts, said Brian Schmidt, a policy and advocacy director with Green Foothills.

“We’re very glad the project is proposed to be moved,” Schmidt told San Jose Spotlight. “It doesn’t necessarily mean all environmental concerns are addressed though.” James Eggers, director of the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter, said designers could ensure light from the swaying rods face inward to reduce the impact on wildlife, but concerns remain.

“The worst places to introduce massive artificial light at night are in heavily populated areas,” Eggers told San Jose Spotlight. Downtown Councilmember-elect Omar Torres said ensuring local organizations and artists are involved in the project is also a priority.

The move to Plaza de Cesar Chavez acknowledges the civil rights leader’s contributions to San Jose, he added, and could increase traffic in downtown San Jose. “We cannot take lightly the name that sits on this park and what that signifies,” Torres told San Jose Spotlight.

“As an incoming councilmember, I look forward to this project coming to fruition and working with stakeholders and community throughout the process.”

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