Most parking garages are drab cubes of gray concrete; people don’t usually expect them to add much to a cityscape. However, the City of Fort Wayne, Ind., had different ideas when building the Skyline Garage. Located within one block of the city center at the Harrison Street Corridor and featuring a programmable, colorful light-emitting diode (LED) facade, the garage is intended to be a public downtown feature.

In a press release, Mayor Tom Henry said, “The garage is another essential part of our work to revitalize downtown Fort Wayne and create a regional destination for businesses, residents and visitors.”

Although the six-story, 1,100-space, $39 million parking garage is owned by the City of Fort Wayne, it is attached to the Ash Brokerage Corp. headquarters and part of the $110 million Ash Skyline Plaza project. The garage accommodates the entire plaza—which includes retail and office spaces, and the future Skyline Towers Apartment—and Ash Brokerage. It also features a bike hub with space for 100 bikes and a one-acre rooftop garden.

But the jewel in the Ash Skyline Plaza crown is the garage’s LED facade, which can provide lighting schemes for holidays and events such as Fourth of July and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“As we planned the structure, we recognized we had the unique opportunity to design a programmable light scheme in Fort Wayne following in the footsteps of the award-winning Martin Luther King, Jr. [MLK] Memorial Bridge on Clinton Street,” said James Hoch, principal and president of Hoch Associates, the Fort Wayne-based architecture firm on the project, in a press release. 

The architects wrapped the garage in a perforated panel with the light from the LEDs peeking through the holes from behind.

Schmidt Electric, Fort Wayne, was responsible for the lighting system. To bring the architects’ goals to fruition, workers had to install a lighting system that could be mounted in an 18-inch cavity while producing enough light through perforated holes to meet lumen- and color-level requirements. The system also had to match the existing lighting-programming capabilities of the city’s other lighting projects, including the MLK bridge. Finally, all of the fixtures and power supplies had to be hidden to prevent vandalism.

When the project was finished, Schmidt Electric had installed a nearly 45-foot wall of color.

The final product is a focal point of the downtown area and a vast upgrade on the traditionally monochromatic city structure.