By Len Ramirez

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – A new light tower could soon rise above downtown San Jose, a glowing symbol of the city that backers say would recall the past and inspire the future.

“We would like this project, this tower, to signify an iconic feel that I’m in San Jose much like when you see the Seattle Space Needle or the St. Louis Arch,” said Jon Ball with the San Jose Light Tower Corp.

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Jon Ball, Tom Wohlmut and Steve Borkenhagen are all San Jose boosters who have started a non-profit corporation to construct a roughly 19 story tower that would straddle Plaza de Cesar Chavez.

“At that height, we believe we can build something world renown and world class,” Borkenhagen said.

It wouldn’t be a first for San Jose, which built a light tower more 100 years ago.

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This is a modern day replica of the original light tower built in 1881. It was internationally known and is said to be the inspiration for the Eiffel Tower, which was built 8 years later.

San Jose’s original tower blew down in a windstorm in 1915.

Now, in a remarkable twist, students at the same Swiss architecture school where one of the Eiffel Tower’s designers graduated — ETH Zurich — took on a design competition for San Jose’s new tower as a class project.

Final designs and city approval are still months, if not years, away.

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The group has already raised about $200,000 in private money for the project, putting it well on its way to build something San Jose doesn’t have: a recognizable landmark.