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Street Lighting Grand Ledge, MI

Historic district boosts traffic with prismatic lighting

At the turn of the century, Grand Ledge, Michigan, was popular as a health retreat for the nation's elite. Thousands flocked to the spas and hotels located on the scenic seven islands in the Grand River, which flows through the town center.

Today, while the hotels have all disappeared, Grand Ledge cherishes its rich history and the architectural reminders of its past. The downtown district is an interesting blend of Italianate, Victorian and Craftsman architecture, with two- and three-story structures housing a variety of retail shops, restaurants and offices. The focal point, however, is a turn-of-the-century opera house located in the middle of town on the river.

In an effort to rejuvenate the downtown district and bring more people to the area, the Grand Ledge Downtown Development Authority (DDA) was able to capture tax funds to support a major infrastructure project that includes streetscaping and retrofit lighting. The project will span the next 20 years.

When it came to the lighting for the project, DDA members launched a search for fixtures that would be different from any others in the state.

"Many cities in Michigan are lighted with acorn-type fixtures," explained Wayne Withers, now retired executive director, Grand Ledge Downtown Development Authority. "We wanted units that were not only unique and would complement the architecture in the district, but were sturdy enough to last. The fixtures also had to be able to spread the light sufficiently to illuminate the faces of the buildings."

Previously, the one-mile stretch of roadway in the downtown district was lighted with cobrahead-type fixtures mounted on aluminum poles. With the fixtures spaced every 100 feet, the lighting was spotty and the area dark.

After inspecting fixtures from several different companies, the units selected for the project are "teardrop" fixtures from Holophane. The 1920s-style fixtures, which were originally developed to illuminate the arteries leading to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, utilize 175-watt metal halide lamps. The fixtures have a goose neck at the top and banner arms, with a glass reflector in the top and luminaire panels that allow the fixtures to maintain their appearance at night. While single-head fixtures are used along the street, double fixtures are installed on the corners.

A total of 84 fixtures are used in the district, mounted on fluted cast iron poles painted green to complement the green, burgundy and gold colors employed in the district. Poles are 14 feet high, spaced 50 feet along the curb. New concrete sidewalks with inlaid mauve-colored, brick pavers are installed on both sides of the lighting fixtures. Illumination levels are 1.8 footcandles.

"Since the retrofit, the downtown district is bright and highly visible. People walking along the sidewalk can make out another person from as far as 50 feet away," Withers described. "The colors are also vivid and true, which is a benefit of the metal halide lamps. If we would have chosen a high pressure sodium system, likely the various colors in the store windows would have been distorted."

Grand Ledge's Downtown District is noteworthy enough to earn the distinction of being named by the Lansing State Journal as the "brightest and cheeriest town in Michigan."

The same fixtures will be used in future phases of the DDA parking lot reconstruction.

"The area is beautiful," Withers concluded. "Business in the district has picked up; people are definitely drawn to the area at night, which is important since we host six festivals each year."

Fixtures are controlled by photocells. The units will be maintained by the city on a regular basis.


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