Larson Building Lights-Yakima Business Times

A Bright Spot: Downtown Landmark To Shine Soon Downtown Larson Building Will Show Off A New Look With Exterior Light Display

By Managing Editor

Since the Great Randy LuvaasDepression, the Larson Building has towered over downtown Yakima. Now it is about to take on a new twist that will make it an even more striking landmark for the city.

In mid-October, one side of the 130-foot-tall art deco structure will be lit up, making it colorfully visible at night from miles away. And if a small group of project boosters can raise the funds they’re aiming for, eventually the entire 11-story building will be turned into a light show.
The first phase, which will light the eastern side facing the freeway and Terrace Heights, will cost about $125,000, said local businessman Larry Hull of Megalodon LLC, who owns the Larson Building and is one of the initial financial supporters of the project.
“It’s all privately funded. There is no money from the city involved,”
he said. “We’re hoping other people will donate and we can raise enough money to do the whole building.”
That would cost another $400,000, estimates Steve Weise. Weise, a partner in another downtown business, Leading Force Energy & Design Center, and a member of Downtown Association of Yakima (DAY), first cooked up the idea of lighting the building a couple of years ago.
“It was Steve’s vision,” Hull said. “He brought the idea to me. We want to make downtown a fun place to be and we’re hoping the idea can spread to other buildings, maybe even circle the plaza. We want to be part of that whole change to downtown Yakima and bring some excitement.”
There has been talk of doing some kind of lighting project downtown in the past, he noted. “But the cost was prohibitive. Now with new technology we can do this.”
The system will use LED lights capable of creating “every color of the rainbow,” Weise said, all run by computer. There will be solar panels mounted atop the building to power the lights.
The project will be unlike any other that he knows about, he said.
“Bellevue Square has LED lighting that they use for light and sound shows, but I didn’t really have any other place in mind,” he said.
DAY got some funds for the project through the national Main Street program, he noted.
“As part of our Main Street designation we are required to do some enhancement on the facades of downtown buildings. Our main thought was we wanted to do something big that everybody could rally around. And this is turning out to be a project that has very few naysayers.
People see it as a pretty positive thing.”
Completing lights for the whole building would be done in seven phases, Weise noted.
“The technology allows you to do a lot. You can do all kinds of different patterns and colors. The newest thing we’re working on is with Radio Yakima which has shown great interest in allowing us to use their Christmas station and maybe another one so we can time music with the lighting. You can select any song and select the lights to go with the music.
“We don’t want it to be obnoxious, but it could be a great marketing tool,” he said. “My desire is that as soon as it gets dark we could have families come downtown and put speakers outside so people so people can congregate and listen to the music and watch the light show.”
Hull agrees that the lights could lure more people downtown.
“It’s going to attract people to the plaza or any special events, in my personal opinion,” he said. “And I think it could help us get some big performers here. If you’re invited here to do a concert and you see how awesome it can look with all the lights, I think we can get some performers who normally wouldn’t come here.”
They also envision using the lights for special occasions — using blue and green Seattle Seahawks colors for big games, as an example, or using University of Washington or Washington State University colors.
“The possibilities are endless,” Hull said. “We’d like to sell bidding rights to different groups and businesses that want to use their colors for promotions. And all the money raised could go to charities.
We’re not trying to do anything other than help events and the whole Valley.”
“It’s really about bringing more life to the downtown,” Weise agreed.
“We’ll be branding downtown as a fun place to be with the plaza and this is one more element.”
He noted that there is a nonprofit arrangement in place through the Millennium Foundation so that any donations can be tax-deductible.
John Baule of Yakima Valley Museum has been another strong booster of the project, which has gotten support from other groups in town including the Yakima Arts Commission. Derek Karol of Yakima’s e3 Solutions, an electrical contractor, also has played a leading role in getting the project started.
The Larson Building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the legacy of local businessman A.E. Larson.
Megalodon has owned the building, which has retail businesses on the lower floor and offices above, since 2007.
“I don’t want people to think Larry is involved in this just to benefit his own building,” Weise said. “He’s really just interested in helping downtown and the community.”