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Peer to Pier mural program on hold

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After three years and 32 paintings on columns under Interstate 64, the city's Peer to Pier program will go on a one-year hiatus, the program's founder said Wednesday.

Instead, city officials will focus their efforts next year on trying to make the area around the existing murals more friendly to visitors through landscaping, lighting and interpretive signs, Lori Brannon told members of the Strong Neighborhoods Task Force.

In the first three years, artists have painted murals along Washington Street, Kanawha Boulevard and, most recently, Virginia Street.

"This is becoming kind of an art gallery," said Brannon, a neighborhood planner who coordinates the annual mural program.

"But it's messy. There's no lighting. There's no signage."

The mural program could resume after a year off to work on those issues, she said.

Brannon said that decision was made several weeks after City Hall discussions with City Manager David Molgaard and Assistant Mayor Rod Blackstone.

The area under I-64 between the north and south lanes of Pennsylvania Avenue has long served as parking lots, although contractors working on the Fort Hill bridge above have fenced off the area closest to the Kanawha River as a staging area for their equipment for the last few years.

Councilwoman Mary Beth Hoover asked if that area would be cleaned up when the contractor finishes.

"My guess is if they do anything at all, it will be utilitarian rather than pretty," said Councilman Joe Denault, a former state Highways employee.

In other business, task force members took a look at a list of action plan items contained in the city's new comprehensive plan, which is slowly moving toward adoption.

Earlier Wednesday, the Municipal Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the council's Planning Committee adopt the plan, along with a downtown development plan.

Assuming committee members do that, City Council would vote on final adoption of the two plans -- written in the Imagine Charleston process -- Oct. 7.

"I'd like to see you take this home, write on it, highlight it and bring it back to our next meeting," chairman and Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis told task force members.

"This is exciting for us, because we have something in front of us that we can say, 'Hey, this is something we can do.'"

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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