When the switch was flipped Thursday evening, 700 feet of multi-colored LED lights flashed to life on the side of Boise Centre West, accompanied by a musical sound track that ranged in style from Michael Jackson to soothing classical.
The programmable light show is the latest art work to grace Downtown Boise. It is one of several works expected to be unveiled in coming months.
The light display is a collaboration of the Greater Boise Auditorium District and the Boise Centre. Its goal is to “illuminate and enhance The Grove Plaza, engaging visitors and guests passing through the space,” Centre officials said in a statement.
The work was installed on the building’s exterior wall along 8th Street between Front Street and Grove Plaza. The display, which will change throughout the year, includes six programs set to different types of music.
“The visual art display is programmed by a creative light designer with the ability to make the wall dance in full motion, intensity and color,” said Mary-Michael Rodgers, Boise Centre communications manager. “The intensity of the light display can be altered to be warm and welcoming or cooler for the late evening or early morning hours.”
The display will run daily, starting at dusk and ending in early morning. It can be programmed with theme colors to coordinate with local events.
Like football games. So expect a lot of blue and orange. Go, Broncos!
The story below was published Oct. 23, 2017, under the headline "If you light it, they will come: New lights to decorate 8th Street bridge, Grove Plaza."
Boise is one step closer to getting two new kinds of light shows.
The first will light up a bridge. The Boise Department of Arts and History is working with Rocky Mountain Electric, exploring ways to wire Boise’s historic steel truss 8th Street bridge — now a pedestrian walkway over the Boise River just east of Capitol Boulevard — with nighttime LED lighting.
The cost would range from $50,000 for plain white lights to $90,000 for programmable, multicolored lights that could change with the seasons or for special occasions, said Karl LeClair, the department’s public art program manager. So far, city leaders favor white lights to show off the old bridge’s structure.
There are few details yet about the number of lights, the design of the installation or the cost of operation, though the LED system will be “more sustainable in the long term than the existing halogen lights that are installed now,” LeClair said.
The Capitol City Development Corp., the city’s urban renewal agency, has committed $50,000 to the project. There’s just one snag. The border of CCDC’s district extends to the exact middle of the 8th Street bridge and no farther. So the agency’s money can pay for projects only on the northern half of the bridge. The city will have to pay for the rest from non-CCDC sources, LeClair said, and is in the midst of finding those dollars.
The bridge lighting is a key part of a larger plan to improve the 8th Street corridor, said Karl Woods, project manager at CCDC. One driver is Boise State University’s satellite campus in the Clearwater Building at 777 W. Main St., north of its main campus.
“There’s been a lot more action on 8th Street” as students travel between the complexes, including walking over the trestle bridge,Woods said. “We’re looking at a few different projects to improve safety and place-making.”
The bridge, among the oldest in the city, was built in 1911 to replace an earlier bridge a few yards west which had connected 9th Street with Boise Avenue (Boise Avenue to 9th Street was the route of the Oregon Trail). Capitol Boulevard was not completed until its own bridge was built just to the east in 1931.
More Downtown lights
The second project will brighten the Front Street approach to the Grove Plaza. The Greater Boise Auditorium District is working with a Danish company, Martin, to create a display of colored vertical bars of light on the east side of the original Boise Centre building, now called Boise Centre West.
The lights will be programmable, will be able to change colors and will eventually have a sound element that will be coordinated with the lights and music anticipated for a future installation in the fountain at the center of the Grove Plaza.
“We have approval from CCDC and the city to bring this corridor to life, to make it bright and welcoming,” particularly welcome in the darker, colder months of the year, said Mary-Michael Rodgers, communications manager for GBAD and the Boise Centre.
The light display will cost under $100,000, Rodgers said, and will be covered with funds raised from GBAD’s hotel-room tax. The plan is to have it installed before the end of this year or early in 2018.
Place-making for progress
A third project, apparently temporary, is a $9,000 painted mural on the pavement at the intersection of 8th and Fulton streets. The city chose a geometric zig-zag pattern proposed by artist Jason Keeble, the co-owner of Trademark, a Boise design and sign company.
The mural is a partnership between the city and the Ada County Highway District to see how well this kind of painted mural stands up to the elements and traffic and whether such street art should become an ongoing program throughout the city. The experiment will last for one year, at which point ACHD will remove Keeble’s mural, LeClair said.
The paint being used is a durable, ACHD-approved type similar to the paint used for center stripes on roads, though it won’t be reflective. The city is paying the full cost.
A fourth project is an alley upgrade. CCDC and the highway district plan improvements to the alley near Boise Contemporary Theater at 854 W. Fulton St. They will install permeable pavers and colored concrete.
That is similar to a fifth project: previously reported planned upgrades to the Freak Alley Gallery and Union Block alleys farther north on 8th Street.
Parts of these plans were first reported at boisedev.com.
Maria La Ganga: 208-377-6431, @marialaganga