LYNN – When Kim Hopkins worked directly with youth and families, she made one thing perfectly clear: “Don’t ever bring kids to High Rock park after dusk. It’s not safe.” She was not the only one who felt that way.
Now, the grant writer for City Square-based nonprofit Centerboard encourages residents and visitors to check out the 170-foot-tall stone High Rock Tower, which offers spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Boston skyline and planes taking off and landing at Logan airport. She’s not alone in her praise for the underappreciated historic stone structure and its 4.5 acres in the heart of downtown Lynn.
What caused Hopkins and others to see High Rock in a different light? Bright colorful LED lights, that’s what. The illumination of the tower has reduced concerns about public safety, she said.
In March 2016, Centerboard, whose mission is to revitalize communities by investing in their people and places, invited renowned Retonica lighting designer Joey Nicotera to demonstrate how lighting could transform this neglected area. The response from city officials, business leaders and residents was unanimously positive.
In October, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Boston Foundation, two sides of the tower were illuminated. Centerboard began a Light Campaign with the help of Patronicity and MassDevelopment seeking to raise $20,000 in donations to fund a permanent, state-of-the art, programmable lighting display. That number was met, actually surpassed, triggering a matching grant, allowing for the illumination of the entire tower with 48 LED lights, and the installation of a second programmable laser.
Hopkins said Centerboard envisions High Rock Tower and its observatory (home to the city’s large telescope with lenses powerful enough to view the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and her moons, and our moon’s surface) as a model of public safety, a venue for community gatherings and weddings, outdoor performances, an informational weather beacon like Boston’s Hancock Tower, a central part of celebrations since illuminations are programmable for specific holiday celebrations, a historical attraction for visitors, and an ever-changing art installation that can be seen for miles.
Tomorrow, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Centerboard will celebrate the lighting campaign’s success in its Visionspace Gallery, 16 City Hall Square. The public is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served. Hopkins said party plans also include displaying the names of supporters and donors on the side of the tower. She added that a simulation on New Year’s Eve of a ball dropping a la Times Square is also in the works.
Weather permitting, the full installation should be completed within a few weeks.
Hopkins said the idea was planted about two years ago when Lynn photographer Jason Taglieri suggested at a Centerboard meeting “Wouldn’t it be great if we lit that tower up.” City agencies and elected officials have been on board since Day One she added.
Hopkins credits the Beyond Walls project for showing people that public art was possible. “There was a surge of support for us. We were able to capitalize on their energy and accomplishment. People see Lynn in a different light now. The city is attracting attention. A lot of good things are happening downtown and throughout the city. We all hope people visit, stay and spend money in our businesses and restaurants.
“It puts Lynn in a positive light. That City of Sin thing is so old and not true. There’s a whole different vibe here now. We can all feel it.”