Plans for this crosswalk mural have hit a roadblock.

Plans for this crosswalk mural have hit a roadblock.

Image provided by the the city of Rochester Hills

New community mural project tabled due to location concerns

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 17, 2024


ROCHESTER — The Rochester Downtown Development Authority has decided to table a proposed crosswalk mural project after it hit a roadblock at City Council.

The Rochester Downtown Development Authority received a $2,500 matching funds placemaking grant from Main Street Oakland County for a proposed crosswalk mural project and recently shared their idea with the City Council for potential approval June 10.

In order to secure time in the artist’s schedule, the DDA had already contracted professional mural artist Rhiannan Sibbald to install four corresponding crosswalk murals at the intersection of West Fourth Street and Walnut June 17.

“West Fourth Street, as many of you know, is an area that is activated by the DDA quite often — whether it’s our Kris Kringle Market, Dancing in the Streets or our upcoming Maker’s Market event. That is a street that we utilize and could see any artform being installed in here as an additional attraction to our events, as we are already welcoming visitors to town,” DDA Marketing Coordinator Taylor Knuth said during the meeting.  

The DDA board selected a floral design from a collection of three options, which they felt would add “vibrancy and excitement” to downtown Rochester while making pedestrian zones “safer and more visible.”

“Our artist mentions this artwork being bold, fun, imaginative flowers, approachable, straightforward — a friendly concept and a display of her signature style of artwork,” Knuth said.

Because the murals were rooted in traffic safety concerns, Knuth said they were really not meant to be very detailed or message-focused.

The project was slated to cost $5,500 — with $3,000 coming from the DDA and $2,500 from the grant.

While Councilman Christian Hauser said he liked the concept, he was worried about the maintenance.

“For me, it’s more about the maintenance and what it’s going to look like in 16 months or 19 months. … Let’s be candid: There’s going to be a lot of traffic. … How do we maintain that it looks pristine, as much as we can, for as long as we can?” he asked.

The artist, Knuth said, planned to craft the mural with traffic marking paint, formulated to essentially withstand road traffic, ultraviolet light, salt applications and more. The paint has a one-year guarantee from Sherwin Williams, but it was slated to last two-three without showing wear and tear, according to the DDA. Any touch-ups to the mural would be an additional cost.

“Additionally, it could wash away, so we could revisit this project and contract a new artist under the DDA’s overview,”  Knuth noted.

Councilwoman Marilyn Trent said she is “totally for public art” and was supportive of the floral design, but the location concerned her. Trent preferred placing a mural in the pocket parks or even the parking structure, to be “less of a distraction.”

“It seems like one painted crosswalk going to The Roxy, going to the Corner Bar, or going toward the alley or the parking structure, where a lot of people come from, that would be a test, as opposed to putting down four — and two of those are going to a funeral home. I just don’t know about activating the funeral home at this time,” she said.

Councilman Steve Sage proposed possibly picking an alley behind Main Street and adding street murals there to add some vibrancy.

City Manager Nik Banda said the DDA had already nixed that idea due to wear and tear from frequent garbage and delivery truck stops, grease spills, and more.

“The alleys are abused. We can’t even keep the white stripes on there because of the trucks constantly, every day, loading and unloading. It sounds nice, but … that would take way more abuse than just driving on it,” said Banda.

Councilwoman Sara King said the murals looked “a little out of place.”

“I just don’t see how the design chosen ties in with Rochester and our community. Having it in one location just feels like we’re throwing something on the ground a little bit in this one area. I’d rather see a more thought-out plan if we are going to do something like this, where it would be more throughout the city,” she said.

Following the meeting, Knuth said the DDA decided to table the project but could potentially explore other locations in the future.

“We only paid for services rendered (date saved and rendering options provided),” Knuth said in an email. “We don’t have contractual obligations or monies lost with the artist at the time. With that said, I think we would like to make the project work with the artist that was hired moving forward.”

“As of right now, just between the artist’s schedule — she isn’t available again until September — and we are unsure with the pivoting of the grant, so we might move in a different direction, or we might return to this concept next spring,” Knuth said.