Months of planning and preparation paid off in an epic way on May 5th, 2018 when the Cox Bridge lighting project was unveiled to the people of Lowell with a dazzling display of luminous excitement.
The privately funded project was spearheaded by the Greater Lowell Community Foundation in collaboration with the Lowell Heritage Partnership and the Waterways Vitality Initiative. Anonymous donors provided the financial resources while many partners provided in-kind contributions to make the event possible.
The lighting celebration came at the conclusion of Lowell’s ArtWeek and Doors Open Lowell, showing once again that the city’s festive spirit is alive and well. Viewing locations were set up on both sides of the river while music and food trucks entertained guests in Kerouac Park and Blue Star Park in Downtown and Centralville respectively. The connection between the two neighborhoods is a key feature–the anonymous donor who helped inspire the effort specifically chose the John E. Cox Bridge because of its historical significance in linking the two sides of the river.
At a reception just prior to the lighting ceremony, Mayor Samaras touched upon the path that led to this exciting evening. The genesis of the Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative arose in late 2015 when former Lowell Heritage Partnership president Paul Marion and current LHP vice president Fred Faust started ruminating over “what’s next for Lowell.” The “Next Initiative” turned out to be one focused on Lowell’s canals and rivers. The waterways that literally put the city on the map back in the 19th century could be a source of inspiration once again in the 21st.
Since its official launch in 2016, the Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative has seen numerous events and capital investments in the city’s waterways. Although the LHP helped manage the planning process and the crafting of the Action Plan released in February of 2017, the effort has been a collaboration throughout. The City of Lowell installed lights alongside the Merrimack Canal for Winterfest 2016. Later that year, the LHP and other private donors helped put on a temporary demonstration lighting project “Light Up the Locks” in September 2016 at the Swamp Locks. Other local businesses have also paid to brighten their downtown facades during the evening hours with architectural lighting. Finally DIY Lowell took the lead on an event activating Ecumenical Plaza with the Points of Light Lantern Festival held the past two Aprils.
The effort has been featured at the 2017 World Canals Conference in Syracuse, NY and was also honored by the Massachusetts Institute for the New Commonwealth (MassINC) at the annual Gateway Cities Innovation Awards. The Waterways Plan also featured prominently in the debut issue of Gateways magazine.
The Lowell Heritage Partnership recently received a grant from the Theodore Edson Parker Foundation to hire a part-time project director to assist with implementing the ideas in the Action Plan and taking the Waterways Initiative into its next phase.
But for now, residents of Lowell celebrate the newest addition to its nighttime sky. While the May 5th event featured a special coordinated light show and accompanying music unique to the evening, the bridge features will be lit every night as part of a permanent installation and be thematically programmed throughout the various seasons of the year.
For more about the Cox Bridge Lighting please visit the project page at the Greater Lowell Community Foundation website. To learn more about the Lowell Waterways Vitality Initiative visit www.lowellheritagepartnership.org/next