New architectural lighting illuminates South Grand Business District

Rachel Witt has been thinking about the lighting along a six-block stretch of St. Louis for more than a decade. As the executive director of the South Grand Community Improvement District (SGCID), she’s focused on highlighting the businesses south of Tower Grove Park, first through the addition of LED rope lighting and, more recently, with the unveiling of a new and updated lighting scheme designed to attract more people to the area. 

“Maintaining the exterior presence of our buildings is important to celebrate our history and look forward to the future of the community,” says Witt, who worked with members of the SGCID board to plan the upgrades. 

The first phase of the project was revealed in February and features new uplighting on three buildings at the entrance of the district at Grand and Arsenal, as well as on buildings at the intersection of Grand and Wyoming and Grand and Connecticut. “We picked the biggest buildings first to get that wow factor,” she says. 

The new look is part of a larger neighborhood branding campaign, with the lights acting as a beacon or marker to signal to visitors that they’ve arrived in the business district. The lights also bring attention to the street’s historic architecture, dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. “We focused on the textures of the building façade and were particular in choosing light distributions, so that the textures of the stone were brought to life,” says Amy Hughes, an owner of H2Ltg., the company that designed the new scheme. 

The added layer of security encourages more people to visit the neighborhood’s restaurants and retail shops, places such as Social Goods Marketplace, Garden District, and Urban Matter.

“I’ve been running this district for almost 18 years now,” says Witt. “We want more people down here but perception is everything in the city—no matter where you are. And if it’s dark people don’t want to come.” 

But it’s important not to overdo the lighting, says Jason Frey of Lighting Associates. “You want to simplify it to where you bring out the beauty in the architecture and also do it [within] the budget.” Warm light tones for the fixtures, he adds, were a popular choice among patrons and residents, as well as important for environmental purposes.

So, what’s next for the district? Witt says the board will take a step back and assess the buildings. “[Then,] we’ll put the committee back together to start talking about phase two.”

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