By Marc Venema
If you paint it, they will come.
That’s the hope behind the City of Belleville’s decision to hire a local artist to paint a mural of a storefront in the downtown area on an abandoned, boarded-up building.
“Some of the stores that have been empty for too long do look a little grubby and that’s what they want to get away from,” said Kim Taylor, the local artist who painted the mural.
Taylor said the city has told her that there will be more projects like this to come.
“Other storefronts that haven’t been leased out for the last few years, they are having problems with some of those,” Taylor said. “They just look a little outdated so we will put something on those.”
The mural represents a storefront of a clothing store named Haberdashery. Taylor said she liked the name because it stretches out across the entire storefront. She said she went for a certain look to match with other storefronts in the area.
Mark Fluhrer, director of recreation, culture and community services at the city of Belleville, said the mural is one of many projects in an attempt to clean up downtown.
Fluhrer said a few of the other projects include repair to curbs and sidewalks, redevelopment of Campbell Street, improved entrances and signage and increased safety and security.
Fluhrer said some downtown businesses that were boarded-up were becoming an eyesore and it was time to do something.
“We wanted to see if we could put some murals in place of them instead of having them left abandoned or unfinished and it gives it (downtown) a sense of beautification,” Fluhrer said.
Edie Haslauer owns the building at 265 Front Street where the mural was painted. She hopes it will help in cleaning up, and bringing more businesses downtown.
“I think the mural brightens up an area that needed some brightening up and cheering up, and hopefully it inspires more retailers to come downtown,” Haslauer said.
Haslauer said a famous dress shop once occupied the building before fire destroyed it more than a decade ago. It’s been boarded up since.
The storefront stands directly beside Pinnacle Music Studios.
Owner Ken Harnden commends Haslauer’s efforts in cleaning things up.
“She’s done a really good job,” Harnden said. “Edie is very conscious of the appearance of her building.”
Harnden has been in this location for 11 years now and said the city’s recent decision to put money into cleaning up downtown is important for business owners.
“It’s always nice to have an area where you do business that you would want to go yourself and that you’re proud of,” said Harnden.
Fluhrer said it was important for the city to use homegrown talent to paint the mural.
“We like to use local talent wherever we can,” Fluhrer said. “We’ve got a very strong, talented, and capable creative class that lives here.”
Taylor is thankful that the city has given her the opportunity.
“I think it’s great for myself to say that I’ve done something for my city,” Taylor said. “I feel pride in it and I think the city takes pride on knowing they know someone who did it too.”