LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

UPDATED 11/18/11 12 noon

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Loop Alliance, the group of State Street businesses that usually puts up all of the twinkling white tree lights for the holidays, says it won’t be doing the lights this year.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, the alliance says it will instead use the money for the lights to pay for part of a new light-based art exhibit called Lightscape.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

The display will feature dozens of clusters of light stalks designed to look like prairie grass, each of them up to 9 feet tall.

The “prairie grass” patches will each contain up to 100 LED lights, and will feature embedded amplifiers that will blast holiday songs. The lights will change patterns in synchronization with the music, which will include standards such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “Carol of the Bells.”

The installation will be set up along State Street between Lake and Van Buren streets. It will be activated every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The cost for the displays comes in at more than $1 million, but it won’t go away when the holiday season ends.

“Lightscape” will be featured on State Street for the next five years, with the music changing to reflect the time of year. Crain’s Chicago Business suggested perhaps love songs in February and John Philip Sousa marches in July, Crain’s reports.

Loop Alliance director Ty Tabing tells Crain’s the white lights usually used at the holidays cost $120,000 a year, but are taken down after a mere six weeks. “Lightscape” will use less energy and require less maintenance, Tabing told Crain’s.

Five years’ worth of the old holiday light budget is being redirected toward “Lightscape,” along with the fund that paid for the pop-up art that filled empty downtown storefronts for a while, Crain’s reports.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will flip the switch on “Lightscape” at 4 p.m. Monday, along with aldermen Robert Fioretti (2nd) and Brendan Reilly (42nd.)

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