Nights have turned brighter over the last few years in the downtown Kent Historic District.
Each year more businesses have added roofline LED lights, and now 51 buildings feature the colorful lighting with still more to come.
“When it turns dark at night the downtown Historic District looks impressive,” said Barb Smith, Kent Downtown Partnership (KDP) executive director. “It immediately gets your attention and feels inviting. The added light also feels safer.”
Mike Miller, chair of the KDP Economic Development Committee, came up with the idea to light up the rooflines and has led the drive to get more businesses involved.
Miller received a recognition award for his volunteer work at the annual Washington State Main Street Conference in April in Port Townsend.
“Mike literally drives through downtown every chance he gets at night to be sure all the lights are lighted,” Smith said. “If they are not, then he contacts the appropriate person of that business/property to be sure they get repaired.”
It was while driving past a Covington shopping center a few years ago that Miller got the bright idea to light up the rooflines in downtown Kent.
“One side of a street was all dark but there were bright LED lights on the other side,” Miller said in an interview.
KDP, a group focused to help make downtown a destination for residents and visitors, joined with Miller to get the city of Kent to kick in about $15,000 to start up the lighting program.
KDP also used its funds to help businesses pay for the lights. Soon, more property owners in the 25-block area decided they wanted the lights.
“After some of the property owners began to see what a difference it made, they agreed to pay for some if not all, of the cost to lights along their roof tops – it became a partnership,” Smith said.
Miller tracked down a Lynnwood company that installs the lights. The firm does the lighting for about 40 shopping centers in the Seattle area, including Kent Station, Miller said.
“Some are reluctant,” Miller said about adding new businesses. “We don’t have The Platform or Dwell (apartment complexes), but we hope to get one of those this year. We will probably add three buildings this year.”
Smith and Suzanne Cameron, chair of the KDP Design Committee, nominated Miller for the state’s Main Street Award. They have noticed the changes downtown.
“If you haven’t been downtown at night and seen the roof lights, you are missing a spectacular vision,” Smith said.