The University of Akron's Polsky Building will help light up downtown Akron for the holidays and beyond.

As part of a fix-up of the building's art deco exterior, UA has installed color-changing facade lighting, as well as additional lights to illuminate the sidewalk area.

The facade lights, highlighting the terra cotta on the building's exterior, can be programmed in a variety of colors.

UA will debut the lights at Friday's Winterfest opening celebration at Lock 3 park, on Main Street downtown. Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include the lighting of the city's Christmas tree, a visit from Santa and fireworks. The glow of the new lights on the Polsky Building, also on Main, will be easily visible from the park.

"We'll have green and red for Christmas and blue and white for Hanukkah," UA architect Stephen Myers said.

There's also orange for Halloween, as well as pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, among other colors.

Whatever the color, "the way it hits the terra cotta shapes, it looks fantastic," Myers said.

The Polsky Building originally opened in 1930 as Polsky's department store. The store closed in 1978, a victim of shoppers opting to go to malls outside the city center.

The Prudential Insurance Co. donated the building to UA in 1987. Following a $28.5 million renovation, the building reopened in 1994 as UA classrooms and offices. The building is home to the College of Applied Science and Technology, university archives and special collections and the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing.

Colored lighting was not in the initial plan to repair crumbling exterior terra cotta blocks, as well as make various improvements. But the budget for the original facade project came in substantially below the estimated $1.7 million, leaving more than enough available for the programmable lights. The state-funded project, including the lights, cost roughly $1.5 million.

Myers credited Suzie Graham, president and chief executive officer for the nonprofit Downtown Akron Partnership, for planting the idea to brighten the Polsky Building's facade.

The cost of the colored LED lighting was not much higher than that of non-colored lighting, Myers said.

Noting concerns about light pollution, Myers said beams of light do not extend directly into the sky.

The engineer for the project was Barber & Hoffman in Cleveland and the architect was Chambers Murphy and Burge, a studio of Perspectus Architecture in Akron and Cleveland. Electrical engineer was PTA Engineering in Bath.

Akron Children's Hospital led the way with big colored lighting projects downtown, installing color changing lights on the Exchange Street Parking Deck and on the Kay Jewelers Pavilion in 2015. The lights also are on the hospital's expanded Considine Professional Building, which opened in October.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.