City officials hope downtown backdoor murals will help businesses during construction
FARMINGTON — Farmington’s Downtown District will kick off its Art in the Alley project this month during the Downtown Stroll and Art Walk on April 13.
The City of Farmington is hosting the project, which puts local and regional artists to the task of creating and painting murals on downtown’s buildings in advance of a major remodel of the district. The city has plans to renovate a several-block stretch of West Main Street to create a downtown environment that’s friendlier to foot and bike traffic and to shoppers and restaurant-goers in the historic district.
Art in the Alley is part of that downtown revitalization project, which the city is calling Complete Streets. Part of the goal of the alley project is to help create effective backdoor entrances for businesses before, during and after construction, according to Farmington Downtown Coordinator Michael Bulloch.
“We need to create a reason for people to be in the alleys (to access backdoor entrances) and also make them more welcoming,” Bulloch said on March 19.
The city is currently accepting applications for mural project ideas, Bulloch said. The project has a few guidelines for potential projects, including a requirement that the subject matter be timeless and family friendly, and should portray or celebrate state, regional, or local history, culture and character, according to project guidelines.
There were 18 building owners interested in participating in the project on March 19, Bulloch said. There is no deadline to submit a mural proposal, but the city is hoping to have most projects finished before the end of the year and in advance of construction, which is likely to begin in 2019.
Artists will be paid $500 for participating in the project, and Bulloch said there may be opportunities for community members or groups to volunteer and help paint the murals in the coming months, or to donate equipment like scaffolding or scissor lifts.
Bulloch said the city hopes to partner with local paint supply companies for paint and painting tools.
A local family has also contributed to the project. The Merrion Family Foundation contributed $25,000 to the project, according to T. Greg Merrion.
Merrion said his family’s foundation supported a business in Bloomfield that was affected by the construction of U.S. Highway 64 when Bloomfield’s Main Street district was closed for construction.
“Because of that experience, we were just intimately aware of how difficult it can be to continue to operate a business when the main thoroughfare in front of your business is under construction,” Merrion said on March 21, adding that the Art in the Alley project “hopefully is going to make people feel more comfortable and maybe even excited about going down the alleyways and checking out the art work and going in and out of those businesses in a different way while this construction is going on."
The Art in the Alley project will also include a lighting component, according to Sherry Roach, Complete Streets project coordinator.
The city will help businesses install solar lighting on buildings participating in the mural project, and downtown businesses that are not participating can also opt in to the lighting efforts in a cost-sharing deal with the city. The solar-power LED lights will provide dim lighting throughout the night, and motion sensors will activate a bright light function, Roach said.
The city designated $2,400 from the Art in the Alley budget for the lighting project, according to information from Bulloch.
The lighting component of the project is an effort to make downtown’s alleys friendlier and safer in a district that’s had problems with transient populations, Bulloch said.
“By making it seem like a friendlier, prettier place, people will be less intimidated by using the alleys,” Bulloch said. “If you get more people walking anywhere downtown, that increase in pedestrian traffic tends to drive away any kind of potential criminal activity.”
Downtown’s population of transient people, some of whom struggle with addiction and homelessness, has been a deterrent to potential downtown visitors, some business owners say, and the city and the Farmington Police Department are working with the Complete Streets Project to help address the issue.
Sgt. Rocky Velarde attended a Downtown Stakeholders’ Meeting on March 19 at the Complete Streets Headquarters to inform stakeholders of FPD’s efforts and projects addressing addiction and homelessness in the city, and to gather feedback from stakeholders on issues specific to downtown.
The Complete Streets project is still in the design phases, Roach said. Project designers will present some plans to the city in April, including renderings of the renovated streets and crosswalks and an estimate of construction costs. Farmington City Council members and project leadership will submit feedback for the design and plans, which will likely be finalized over the coming months.
Scott Day, a consultant with Urban Development Services, will return to Farmington on April 4 to present his recommendations to the city and to downtown business owners regarding construction mitigation efforts.
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.