Landmark light-tower in San Jose's Plaza de Cesar Chavez proposed

A nonprofit wants to build an iconic landmark, a world-renowned light tower at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. The tower would light up downtown and could be 26 stories high taller than the Fairmont Hotel.

“Imagine the planes that are flying by,” said Thomas Wohlmut of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation. “All the passengers would see it lit up with beautiful lights and twinkling displays.”

Wohlmut is one of the founders of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation dedicated to building the tower.

“I love this city and it needs a cultural center, a place we can identify as a symbol for what we do with innovation here,” said Wohlmut.

San Jose’s original light tower was built in 1881 three blocks away from Plaza de Cesar Chavez at Market and Santa Clara Streets. It was knocked down in a windstorm in 1915. At the time, it was one of the tallest free standing iron structures in the world. Wohlmut said that tower may have inspired the Eiffel Tower built in 1889.

“If you look at the proportion of the Eiffel Tower and overlay it over the San Jose tower, they are identical proportions three to one and the arch at the bottom of our tower is the same as the arch of the Eiffel Tower,” said Wohlmut.

The Eiffel Tower designer studied at ETH Zurich. More than 100 years later, students from that same engineering school are in San Jose presenting their concepts for this new tower.

“I think our idea is something very special and I know there are other people in the world that have good ideas but I really like our tower,” said ETH Zurich Student Coralie Taccoz.

The nonprofit hopes to bring in more ideas with an international competition. The goal is to have a beacon beaming with pride in five years.

“We hope the reaction people have of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower would be similar to what they would feel when they look at this tower we intend to build in San Jose,” said Steve Borkenhagen of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation.

The project is still in its early stages. Right now, the nonprofit is working with the City of San Jose to have it built at Cesar Chavez Park. The nonprofit did not give an estimate on how much it could cost but so far has raised $120,000 from private donors.