Let there be light!

January 06, 1995

As the recent decision to turn the World Trade Center into a night-time beacon shows, Marylanders are divided about the wisdom to spend hefty bucks to light up the Baltimore skyline. Yet the results so far have been spectacular.

The NationsBank tower is a stand-out; so is the World Trade Center with its laser-like beams. More buildings like that and the skyline will glow.

It is easy to sneer at this kind of expenditure. But the truth is that the older landmark office buildings get the more it takes to make them desirable in the market place. In those terms, skillful lighting is a relatively inexpensive way to increase their mystique and draw.

A lighting study has identified more than 100 buildings in the downtown area that would benefit from illumination. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., in cooperation with Downtown Partnership and members of the Building Owners and Managers Association, are now working on devising ways to illuminate them.

Meanwhile, a parallel effort is under way to provide better lighting for downtown streets. The assumption is that this would discourage undesirable activity and make downtown more inviting for strolling.

We wholeheartedly support these efforts and think they are essential for spreading the success of the Inner Harbor.

With the Columbus Center soon opening and a new children's museum on the drawing board, Baltimoreans and visitors will be venturing to new areas around the harbor. Better lighting will make them feel safer. This is important because the new Metro station at Baltimore Street and Fallsway is several blocks away from the Inner Harbor.

"If the city is brighter, it will be safer," contends Kathleen Proctor, a BGE program administrator working on the Brighten Baltimore campaign. "It will improve the city's image and help draw people to the city, and that will benefit everyone."

The newly illuminated NationsBank tower and World Trade Center will be potent examples of what can be achieved when the Brighten Baltimore campaign gets in full swing later this year. As owners of important buildings are contacted, the campaign's message is that no two buildings or lighting situations are the same. In many cases, even a modest expenditure can achieve dramatic results.

If everything goes as planned, the Baltimore night-time skyline should look quite different by 1997, when the city celebrates the bicentennial of its incorporation. We can hardly wait.

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