The skyline of Iowa’s second-largest city has taken on a distinct, colorful new hue this month — pink — and it won’t be the last time it changes color.
The Alliant Tower — the tallest building in downtown Cedar Rapids — began beaming pink lights along all four sides Thursday evening, a display it intends to continue for the remainder of October for breast cancer awareness. The point is to remind people to “go get checked,” said Mike Wagner, a spokesman for Alliant Energy.
“We like it because it helps support a great cause like the ‘Power of Pink’ and makes the downtown area more vibrant,” Wagner said. “People come and take pictures. It attracts people to the downtown area.”
Mercy Medical Center’s Power of Pink celebration marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month and encourages residents to change their porch lights to pink bulbs during October.
Along with Alliant, other downtown properties also are adding colored light to their exteriors. The Third Avenue Bridge, the old Smulekoff’s Building (now called East Bank), Black Sheep and several buildings in Kingston Village — including Kingston Commons and the Metropolitan — also have outdoor lighting schemes.
The 21-story, 285-foot-tall Alliant Tower now is outfitted with permanent LED lights near the base that can change into a multitude of colors. The lights shoot up the channels that make up the building facade.
Wagner said the company plans to illuminate the building in different patterns for holidays and special events. There is a predetermined schedule, he said, but he declined to get into specifics.
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The company had a test run with a red, white and blue pattern for the Fourth of July, and it was received positively, Wagner said. Photos of a distinguished nighttime skyline circulated on social media.
“This kind of creates a really welcoming environment downtown,” Wagner said. “From feedback we got, people said they liked the ambience.”
The visual enhancements have an eye-catching effect on the skyline for those passing on Interstate 380 as well as those downtown, and some think it will help market the downtown and encourage people to visit.
“It distinguishes us through illumination in a way that is unique to where downtown just has that much more of an inviting presence and uniqueness about it,” said Jesse Thoeming, Downtown District director.
The Downtown District was behind a new lighting display on the Third Avenue Bridge, which Thoeming said the district intends to coordinate with the Alliant patterns. The bridge project, which Thoeming called the organization’s “big wow project” for 2018, includes nine light fixtures standing 15 to 20 feet tall and a globe shape at the apex.
Fixtures are stationed along the bridge and have programmable patterns and colors, he said. The last fixture was installed near the end of September, he said.
Installers still are working out the kinks, but eventually the fixtures will offer a variety of looks, Thoeming said. For now, the bridge is lighting up from dusk until 1 a.m.
Signature lighting was a recommendation of a consultant’s downtown vision study, which was released earlier this year and helped spur the effort, Thoeming said.
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City Manager Jeff Pomeranz said when city leaders traveled to Denver for the All-American City award in 2014, the downtown was lit up, and it made an impression. He thinks the lighting can have a similar effect on Cedar Rapids.
“They add a new, interesting and attractive element to downtown,” he said. “They pull different areas of downtown together.”
Steve Emerson, who owns the old Smulekoff’s Building, said he enjoys lighting the building — the illumination creates a “kinetic energy” because of the density downtown, he said.
Matt Myers, a traffic engineer for Cedar Rapids who has been involved in downtown lighting projects, said the bridge scheme in particular creates a sense of space and connection between two districts. It visually encourages people to cross the bridge to Kingston Village or downtown, he said.
“It is adding something to the environment and decor within downtown to add a different look and feel to the area,” he said. “It is becoming so much more vibrant and encourages more pedestrian activity.”
In a separate lighting effort, the city is leading a $6.3 million project to replace 570 aging light fixtures — the taller streetlights and shorter pedestrian lights — with 451 new fixtures. The fixtures will have uniform aesthetics, adding continuity to the downtown districts, and the illumination will be an improvement for pedestrian and vehicle visibility, city officials said.
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