SJ bright ideas for downtown include stairway mural

This concept image shows what a proposed mural for the bluff steps in St. Joseph could look like. Commissioners on Monday gave St. Joseph Today the go-ahead to create a temporary work of art on the stair risers, which will not create a risk for pedestrians, city staff said. The depicted butterflies are just for the sake of illustration, and are not planned for the stairs.

ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph city commissioners on Monday approved projects that will brighten up downtown, including a temporary mural on the steps below the bluff, plus LED street lights.

Commissioners gave the green light for the mural project requested by St. Joseph Today Executive Director Amy Zapal. The idea came following the positive response to the painting on the rear wall of the organization’s Welcome Center.

The mural will done in tempera paint, which will eventually wash away, rather than more permanent acrylic paint, Zapal said. That will give St. Joseph Today time to gauge public reaction.

The art work will be on the stair risers and will be visible to those climbing the stairs, but will not be seen by those at the top looking west. This will also avoid distracting people walking down the stairs, and will not create a slippery surface, according to city staff.

The project already had the approval of the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority.

There is no design yet for the mural, and Zapal would like to see it put in place the weekend of Chalk the Block, Aug. 2-4.

Commissioners renewed the city’s service agreement with St. Joseph Today for one year, beginning July 1, providing $30,000 for the office to operate in Welcome Center on State Street, offering tourist information and a public restroom. St. Joseph Today is also supported through business membership fees.

Commissioners approved spending $18,900 on 100 energy-efficient LED streetlights for the west side of Main Street, along with a few on the west side. Last year the commission approved purchasing 125 lights, which allowed the poles on Broad and State streets to be converted to LED lights.

The lights already installed were purchased from Eye Lighting International, and city staff say they are working well. The remaining lights will be bought from the company for $189 each, with money from the $20,000 budgeted from the capital improvements fund.

The parks department will be sending the signature “Light Up the Bluff” arch, the centerpiece of the annual lighting display, for refurbishing, at a cost of $16,795. The arch will be sandblasted and powder-coated, and new wiring and LED lights will be installed by Bronner’s Commercial Display of Frankenmuth. The company sold St. Joseph the lights that have been displayed for 12 years.

It takes several months for the repairs to be made, explained Deputy Parks and Grounds Director Greg Grothous, making it necessary to start the process now. Pieces that were sent for work last April were returned in August. No other company was available to do this type of work, he added.

The Light Up the Bluff display, throughout Lake Bluff Park, is unveiled on the first Friday of November and continues until February.

Contact:, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak