INARAY wants to brighten Shockoe’s future

Ideas from a local company could make Shockoe’s future a lot brighter.

Outdoor lighting company INARAY sees many bright spots in Shockoe Bottom’s future, and it recently won $2,000 for its plan to help light ‘em up.

The local company was among 25 contestants competing in last month’s i.e.* Envision This Challenge, a contest designed to inspire creative ways to unify “dead zones” in Shockoe (see below). INARAY’s light-based approach not only won the first place $1,500 cash prize from a panel of judges but earned the People’s Choice Award (and an additional $500).

“The idea [is] to not only connect the entire Shockoe district, but to create a destination point,” said Scott Moberly of the downtown-based INARAY. “Shockoe is a creative district. It’s a diverse district,” he said, but added that its current lighting is “neither creative, nor diverse.”

To fix this, the company presented several ideas for exterior lighting installations throughout the Bottom. One calls for a series of light levels on the Main Street Station: a white light accenting the clock tower and roof and a middle level washed with color.

Shockoe’s highway underpasses would also be illuminated: rows of red lights running across the side walls, blue lights directly underneath the overpasses, and purple lights crawling up the supporting columns. This would create an outdoor space for the public to congregate, a phenomenon some term urban living rooms. Todd Peace, owner of INARAY, says that a so-called urban living room in Shockoe would also help rebrand the area’s nightlife.

“[Underpasses] are the perfect opportunities to create a ‘ceiling,'” he said. Column lights would create the feeling of surrounding walls. “All of the sudden, it’s a place that’s attractive, and a place you want to be in.”

Several colors would be used, but Peace said those colors would be a part of overall continuity. “That’s really the heart of the proposal, is we take those repeating light patterns” and create a unified environment across the Bottom. INARAY also proposed lighting private buildings in the area, along with railroad trestles owned by CSX.

Scott Moberly said one of the inspirations for the INARAY proposal came from the Avenue of the Arts in Philadelphia. He claims the lighting helped increase foot traffic in coordination with the growth in that area’s artistic culture–similar to the artistic culture that businesses and residents in the Shockoe Design District want for their neighborhood.

Todd Peace estimates the cost for the lighting project would range from $3 – $7 million and take roughly a year to a year-and-a-half to complete.

The City’s point man on infrastructure and development is on board with the idea.

“I think it’s a fascinating proposal,” said Mark Olinger, Director of the City’s Department of Planning & Development Review. “I’ve always been a big believer that lighting is a big way to accentuate things.” In fact, Olinger helped steer an exterior lighting project on the facade of City Hall in Madison, Wisconsin when he worked as that city’s development director in the late 1990s.

Olinger said he’ll soon begin facilitating conversations with business owners in the Shockoe Design District on creative lighting. “I want to make sure we get some of this going.”

He said the biggest obstacles in completing a project of this scope and size are logistics, engineering, and cost.

“It’s not cheap,” he said. “But I think there are some of these things that could be done inexpensively.” He said light-based installations cost less and draw on less power than those available over a decade ago when he worked in Madison. And while challenging, he said the logistics and engineering aspects aren’t insurmountable.

But instead of initiating one large project, Olinger thinks a more feasible option is to begin with a single, small installation to inspire future efforts.

“You often need one person who says, ‘I am really interested in doing this’ to show what could happen,” he said. Once that first installation is up, you get people enthused, and then others follow.

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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