Overland Park approves permit for display of moving lights on City Place building at U.S. 69 and College Blvd.

Block Real Estate held a demonstration of the video board capabilities in November. Photo courtesy Block Read Estate.

After months of discussion and negotiation, the developers of City Place got the go ahead to roll moving light displays atop four buildings going up at College Boulevard and U.S. Highway 69.

The Overland Park City Council granted a special use permit for an indefinite time period for the LED light panels that are a part of the design of the office buildings. Developer Ken Block has said he thinks the displays will create a unique sense of place to draw people to the development after business hours. Block and lawyer Curtis Holland said the artistic displays would enhance the College Boulevard corridor, which the city wants to update.

The displays, behind diffuse glass panels, carry a set of restrictions. They will be shown only at night and the lights are not as bright as billboards designed to be noticed in daytime. The developer is also barred from putting ads or word messages on the panels. One building is complete and already has the light panels. Three more have yet to be built.

Just the same, there was some hesitation before approval was granted. The council has been anxious about setting a precedent that they worry could open the floodgates to Vegas-style glitz and advertising. Councilmember David White demanded extra reassurance from Block that no words would be on the displays during “special event” periods in which the panels can convey a message. Examples of past special events include pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness or fireworks on July Fourth. Block agreed to ask for a special event permit in the future.

Some members of the public had opinions, too. Although the permit was near the end of a seven-hour council meeting that included the Brookridge tax incentives, four people stuck around after midnight to air their views.

Ralph Beck warned that the displays could contribute to distracted driving on a tricky stretch of road where speeds are 60 mph and above. Mark Lanzrath wondered whether the city wants to see many other building owners join the light display bandwagon. He said that although the displays are unique now, technology will get cheaper and make it possible for more other businesses to use them. He also reminded the council of the controversy over the downtown murals. The city will not be able to control the artistic content of the displays.

But Overland Park architect Matt Masilionis said the lights will add some liveliness to the area. The technology is already being used in other cities including Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and Austin.

Masilionis estimated he’s driven in the area over 18,800 times during his 25 years in the city. “I’m so glad something actually is happening on the site,” he said. “This element is exactly what Overland Park needs….It’s a perfect time for this.”

Council members said the moving artwork would enhance the city. “This is to me the kind of thing that really helps set Overland Park apart,” said Councilmember Paul Lyons.

“I think it’s a beautiful piece of art and it’s giving a color to our city which is something we really need,” said Councilmember Chris Newlin.