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MeadWestvaco Dims Lights

Company softens lighting atop downtown building, but says move wasn't in response to complaints.



Correction: In earlier print and online versions, Style inaccurately reported that Venture Richmond organizes the Grand Illumination. James Center Property LLC funds and produces the popular holiday event and light show. We regret the error.

MeadWestvaco, the global packaging company that set up shop in a sleek Jetsons-style high-rise downtown at Byrd and Seventh streets in mid-December, has dimmed the appearance of a thin strip of lighting that encircles the building's asymmetrical roof.

The dimming comes in the wake of a critical review of the new building by Style Weekly architecture critic and senior contributing editor Edwin Slipek Jr., and several reader complaints that the building's fluorescent halo amounted to light pollution.

“I live in O-Hill and the lights are so bright on the top of this building that it beams into my bedroom at night. … Now I don't even look at downtown. … Please MWVCO, dim the lights!” posted “BT” on on Jan. 20.

MeadWestvaco says it has indeed dimmed the lights, but not because of Slipek's review or Style readers' complaints, says Donna Cox, the company's vice president of communications. On Friday, Jan. 29, she says, the building turned off the roof's light-emitting diode (LED) lighting and switched to a softer, incandescent light strip.

The brighter LED lighting, Cox says, was MeadWestvaco's contribution to the city's annual Grand Illumination holiday light show organized by Venture Richmond.

Cox says two separate strips of lighting run around the building “in the general same location the holiday-time LED light strip and another year-round incandescent light strip. The holiday lights “have simply been turned off,” Cox says.

As for the timing of the switch, Cox says it was spurred by other buildings turning off their holiday lighting.

Jack Berry, executive director of Venture Richmond, which participates in the Grand Illumination, says the nonprofit encourages businesses to keep the holiday lights on until Valentine's Day as part of the “Love Lights” illumination program founded six years ago by Richmond Free Press's editor and publisher, Raymond H. Boone.

“We recognized that economic conditions make that a real challenge this year,” Berry says.

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