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The effort to create a new landmark in downtown San Jose has reached an important stage, with all 963 proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley — including 47 recommended by a community panel — available for public viewing and ready for a 14-person jury to pick three finalists

The ideas came from 72 countries and include everything from infinity loops, ramps, towers and arches.

Some are covered in plants and greenery, others are made of stone and metal. Some have light features, some have water accents and some reach 200 feet into the sky. There’s a walkway that reacts as people move along it, a translucent dome that looks like an alien egg, and a giant, illuminated California grizzly bear.

“We worked so hard to spread the word to the entire world that I always expected they’d be all over the place,” said Steve Borkenhagen, the longtime San Jose businessman who serves as executive director of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley. “I’m not at all surprised by the different shapes and sizes. We’ve got everything from the ridiculous to the sublime, and I think there’s a bounty of riches for the jury.”

A panel of 34 community members — convened by Borkenhagen and board members Jon Ball and Christine Davis — spent two days together in July poring over the submissions.They settled on 47 recommendations for the jury, a 14-person body made up of artists, architects, city officials and community members that will meet Monday and Tuesday to choose three finalists from the full complement of nearly 1,000 entries. All the submissions are available for public viewing and comment at

At this first phase of the effort, all the submissions are still anonymous, so we don’t have any idea if a particular proposal came from Switzerland or Sunnyvale. The three finalists will be announced and identities revealed with a grand virtual event on Sept. 18. Then those finalists will have a few months — and a $150,000 stipend — to work with design and engineering professionals to refine their proposal into a workable plan. The jury will reconvene in 2021 to pick one winning design, with groundbreaking in the Guadalupe River Park’s Arena Green expected to take place in 2022.

But before the jury makes its decision, here’s a closer look at five proposals drawn from the community panel picks that showcase the diversity and creativity of the entries:


A rendering of “I Am The Bear,” one of the proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley for a new landmark in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

“I Am the Bear”: When it comes to state-inspired symbols, it’s hard to beat this huge representation of California’s grizzly bear. The hollow structure could be used as a gathering space, an exhibition on state or regional history or even a place for ceremonies. Who wouldn’t want to get married inside a giant California bear? (OK, Stanford fans.)

During the day, the structure’s skin — proposed to be made of solar panels — would make it look like a bronze and silver sculpture that’s also gathering data about its environment, including temperature, rain, traffic and noise. At night, that data would be transformed into light, creating a potentially different lantern every evening. The proposal also imagines specific projections of colors and images to celebrate special events.


A rendering of “The GreenLight,” one of the proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley for a new landmark in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

“The GreenLight”: The Urban Confluence project grew from an idea to recreate the San Jose Electric Light Tower, which stood downtown from 1881 until 1915. This proposal draws on the image of the light tower while recasting it as part of the Guadalupe River Park environment.

The gentle, triangle-shaped slope would be covered with grass and other greenery, providing a place where people could relax, play or walk along paths. At night, the space would be illuminated by a beacon light at its peak, smaller lights zigzagging on its paths and strings of LEDs stretching from the top the ground, creating a 21st century version of the light tower.

A rendering of The Guadaloop,” one of the proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley for a new landmark in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

“The Guadaloop”: You’ve got to love this one for the name alone, but a huge 200-foot-high loop — with two transparent cabs that travel along its surface — would be an instant standout among San Jose’s less-than-inspired skyline. The Loop’s wavy base would serve as a pedestrian bridge spanning Guadalupe River near its confluence with Los Gatos Creek.

People who don’t share my crippling fear of heights could get some spectacular views of San Jose and the valley from the ferris-wheel like cabs, and it also would be illuminated by LED lighting at night.

A rendering of “Waterfall Bridge,” one of the proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley for a new landmark in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

“San Jose Waterfall Bridge”: This is an entry with the laid-back vibe you’d expect in Northern California, combining a relaxing waterfall with a functional bridge over the Guadalupe that includes open space for people to hang out and — based on the renderings — stare out into the distance thinking, “Damn, I’m lucky I can still afford to live here.”

The waterfall itself would rain down into a garden from the edges of a circular, translucent canopy that can be covered in a photovoltaic film to generate energy to run its pumps and lighting features. The Waterfall Bridge, just over 20 feet high, wouldn’t do much to change the city’s skyline but its lower profile would make it a compatible addition to the river park.

A rendering of “Spirit of Light,” one of the proposals submitted to Urban Confluence Silicon Valley for a new landmark in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley) 

“Spirit of Light”: There’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes of this submission, which from a distance could be mistaken for the abstract form of two concrete seals approaching each other. But the “spirit” in it title refers to the ghost of the original San Jose Light Tower, which is represented in the empty space between the two tapered forms. The sunken plaza between them would be lit by thousands of hanging LED lights, recreating a shimmering spectre of the light tower.

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The taller, 200-foot-high side would include seating at its base and a visitor center illuminated by a long skylight window. And how’s this for a nice Silicon Valley touch?Tthe dramatic upward sweep of the two shapes is inspired by a graph of Moore’s Law, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore’s famed observation about the exponential development of the semiconductor.

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What if the Cardinals signed Fernando Tatis Jr.?

Fernando Tatis Jr. was almost a St. Louis Cardinal.

San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. has just 104 games to his name in the pros, but he already has become one of the brightest young stars in baseball. Tatis, who leads the NL in home runs and steals in 2020, has a .315 average, 31 home runs and 21 steals during his pro career. The Padres lucked out when they landed Tatis, as he was almost signed by an NL rival.

His father, former MLB third baseman Fernando Tatis Sr., claimed that the St. Louis Cardinals had several opportunities to sign Tatis given how well he performed in workouts, but they never pulled the trigger. He eventually was signed by the Chicago White Sox, where he traded to San Diego in exchange for James Shields in what turned out to be one of the more lopsided trades in recent memory.

Fernando Tatis Sr .: "@tatis_jr was shown in 19 try outs with the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The tools, the skills, everything was there. Many times I asked myself why they didnt sign him. Finally , the #WhiteSox signed him, but then traded him to the #Padres"[email protected]

— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) August 14, 2020

Fernando Tatis Jr. has become one of the best young players in the league with the Padres.

Tatis Sr. hit .265 with 113 home runs in an 11-year pro career. Of those 113 dingers, 61 came as a Cardinal, and 34 came during his fantastic 1999 season. His son is just 21, but he has the potential to become twice the player his dad ever was due to his combination of speed, power, and flair.

Tatis and Manny Machado’s Padres are 11-9, putting them in prime position to contend for a playoff spot in 2020. If the Cardinals took their former third baseman at his word and signed his son to a contract, San Diego might be relegated to the bottom of the division. Even after 104 games, St. Louis has to be livid with the fact their inaction cost them a shot at Tatis.

sTatistics through ????#FriarFaithful

— San Diego Padres (@Padres) August 10, 2020

Related Story Can Tatis and the Padres contend in 2020?

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While Tatis Sr. was a solid MLB player who spent his best seasons with the Cardinals, his son is one of the most electric, captivating young stars in the game today.

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It’s hard to spot future MLB talent at any age, and it’s even harder to scout teenagers. However, the fact that the Cardinals barely gave Tatis the time of day will come back to haunt him if Tatis continues to evolve into a superstar.

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