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Illuminate Jax Hopes To Light Up Downtown Skyline

Jonathan Zander
Wikimedia Commons

Four local businesspeople have a message for downtown Jacksonville — lighten up.

Illuminate Jax is scheduled to present their vision for redesigned lighting of Jacksonville's skyline to the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce next week.

Margie Seaman, director of commercial real estate services for Sellers Realty Group, had the idea to light up buildings downtown about a year ago.

“We always accuse ourselves of having an inferiority complex,” she said of city residents. “This could be a way to inject true pride.”

Seaman found three partners who shared her vision: Landscape architect Jeremy Marquis of St. Augustine-based Marquis Halback Inc., sales representative Mark Kingsnorth of SESCO Lighting, and architect and lighting designer David Laffitte, who designed the lighting on the Main Street Bridge, the Acosta Bridge, and the 13th Street “double helix” pedestrian bridge in Gainesville.

Marquis, who is currently working with the chamber on the redesign of their headquarters, known as “Downtown’s New Front Door,” said the lighting proposal is designed to activate spaces downtown and draw visitors to the city’s urban core.

Credit Marquis Halback, Inc.

"I think it could be something that's so iconic for Jacksonville," he said.

Both Marquis and Seaman said the proposed lighting would be artfully designed to welcome visitors, citing Las Vegas and Disneyland as two places they will not be emulating.

"We want it to really feel right for this gateway city to Florida," said Marquis, adding that the installations could be designed to change based on events or holidays, specifically mentioning Jaguars gamedays.

“The neat thing about LEDs is that not only are they energy efficient, but they can be any color under the sun," he said, referencing the potential for a teal and gold skyline.

One question that has been raised by city officials is what the project could cost. According to Mark Kingsnorth, there are several factors that could affect the cost to install lighting on any one building.

“It’s not just a product,” he said, when asked what specific lights might be used. “It will be more labor intensive if there are no (existing) fixtures where we’re going to put fixtures.”

Kingsnorth gave preliminary cost figures of anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000 to light any one building. For comparison, he said the lighting on New York’s Empire State Building cost about $500,000.

For now that cost would have to be covered by the building owners, but Seaman hopes that they will see the benefit of the lighting investment as a draw for potential tenants.

“It comes down to dollars and sense,” she said, citing statistics for downtown buildings showing vacancy rates between 25 and 50 percent.

Seaman said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown has encouraged the group to seek partnerships with businesses and other groups, and that they do see the potential for underwriters to financially support the project.

Illuminate Jax is scheduled to present their proposal at the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Downtown Council’s regular breakfast meeting on Friday, Sept. 20, at 8 a.m.

Patrick Donges served as WJCT's Digital Content Editor from August 2013 - August 2014.