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Interactive Light Displays Coming to Lower Manhattan

By Julie Shapiro | December 12, 2011 11:24am

LOWER MANHATTAN — Watch out, Times Square — you're about to get some high wattage competition.

A new city project aims to brighten up Lower Manhattan with a dazzling array of interactive, three-dimensional lights by the end of 2012.

The city Economic Development Corp. is putting up to $1 million into the project, with the goal of enticing more people to spend time and money Downtown after dark, enlivening an area that once shut down after all the workers left in the evening rush.

"[The] project will become a landmark for the neighborhood, visible to viewers from both near and far," the EDC said in a request for proposals released Monday.

"This project should increase Lower Manhattan's exposure, expand its appeal and spur more diverse business activity by creating a strong neighborhood identifier."

The EDC is inviting design teams to submit their ideas for eye-catching installations, potentially including "projection-mapping including 3D effects, interactive elements … and pedestrian or kinetic motion-activated lighting," the EDC said.

The displays could be a regular weekly or monthly event or could be tied to other Downtown happenings, such as arts festivals.

The lights could go up anywhere east of Broadway and south of Fulton and Ann streets, but the city is encouraging the teams to focus on two specific areas: South Street from Fletcher Street to Whitehall Street and the pedestrian area around the New York Stock Exchange. Both areas feature well-known city landmarks and already draw many tourists during the day.

The proposals should be sensitive to residential buildings and should not project lights directly into people's windows, the EDC said.

While the winning team will receive up to $1 million from the city, the team would also have to raise additional money privately through grants or corporate sponsorships, the EDC said.

City officials see the lights as a way to both show how far Downtown has come since 9/11 and to push the neighborhood to continue growing.

"Lower Manhattan has long been a global hub of commerce and, in the past ten years...it has at last become a true 24/7 neighborhood," EDC President Seth Pinsky said in a statement.

"The RFP issued today seeks to tap some of the world’s most creative minds to help us highlight the evolution of this great New York neighborhood, both literally and figuratively."

The lighting display proposals are due back to the EDC by Feb. 13. The EDC hopes to sign a three-year contract with the winner in March and launch the lights before the end of 2012.