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(Above) Balconies at Marina City illuminated for the holidays, as seen from the north on Sunday evening. (Click on images to view larger versions.)

17-Dec-18 – With 16 of them along the circumference of 44 floors of two towers, the balconies of Marina City may arguably be what attracts the most attention to the architectural icon, particularly over the holidays when many of the balconies are decorated with string lights.

But less than two weeks before Christmas, the condo board at Marina City is trying, perhaps in vain, to rein in use of balcony lights that are not white – and lights of any color that are on after midnight.

A memo distributed by Marina Towers Condominium Association to residents last week reminded them of new rules that took effect on October 11, allowing only “clear white single strand lights” on balconies.

The lights must be switched off at midnight. Any other lights on the balcony must be of such limited illumination that they “cannot be seen from the street.”

“Management will be enforcing this rule,” warns the memo, though many balcony lights remain on after midnight – and in color – in apparent defiance.

With Marina City recognized around the world, its balconies and colorful lights are “a huge part of its culture and unique qualities,” said a unit owner who asked to remain anonymous. “As colorful art has lit up Merchandise Mart and the Riverwalk...it seems like a terrible idea to turn the lights off at Marina Towers.”

Photo by Bruce Dale

All-white balcony lights were a thing at Marina City in the 1960s, when the residences were rental properties and the single company that managed the entire complex provided lights to residents.

National Geographic captured this over the holidays in 1966 and Marina City appeared on the cover of the June 1967 issue – and in a two-page spread that was part of a 53-page article on Illinois. The 588-foot towers, wrote the magazine, “blaze with Christmas lighting.”

(Left) View of Marina City from east of Dearborn Street Bridge, photographed through a fisheye lens by Bruce Dale.

Residents please be aware that changes to the rules of the building have included rules on the type of lights that are allowed on the balcony. Please take a moment to read what is allowed and not allowed.

ALLOWED: Clear white single strand lights provided that such lights are small, of limited illumination or intensity. Low level illumination that cannot be seen from the street is allowed.

NOT ALLOWED: Under no circumstances may halogen, neon, laser, strobe, or fiber optics, blinking or other lights of high intensity or illumination be displayed or maintained on any balcony. No novelty lights are allowed.

To ensure the comfort of all residents, balcony lights are allowed from dusk to 12:00 a.m. nightly.

– From Marina Towers Condominium Association’s rules and regulations effective October 11, 2018.

(Right) String lights on an east tower balcony at Marina City during a snowstorm on December 12, 2010. Mather Tower and Hotel 71 in distance.

Photo by Steven Dahlman