Wall will be painted, but how?

It may not have qualified as a "Wow!" development, but last week, a city Public Works crew sandblasted old plaster from the north wall of J.J.'s Bodyshop, covered up for generations by the Wayne Hotel building before it was demolished last year.

Everyone agreed at a city Community Development Committee meeting Monday night that simply getting rid of the plaster has made the side of the building look significantly better. But everyone also agreed that the wall and the improvement of the corner in general needs to be a priority for the city, and so a task force will be formed by Mayor Dave Genereux and City Administrator Tony Chladek will be formed to come up with a plan.

Earlier Monday evening, at a City Council meeting, the five-year capital improvement plan OK'ed by the council includes a $50,000 expenditure on improving the corner in 2013.

While the lot has been discussed as being used for additional downtown parking with maybe some greenery, the fate of the exposed wall itself remains largely up in the air. It appears, though, that whatever becomes of it, Crookston High School art teacher Gary Stegman will somehow be involved. Chladek said he spoke with Stegman, and the teacher has some ideas about how best to paint the wall, whether it's some type of abstract design or a mural. That doesn't mean the wall will be home to a mural, however, or any type of art.

"I think whatever we put on that building has to be kind of conservative," council member Dale Stainbrook said.

Council member Bob Quanrud agreed. "I don't want to sound like a sourpuss, but we already have murals, on the (True Value) wall and behind the theater," he said. "I don't want all our downtown painted with murals."

Council member Keith Mykleseth suggested cleaning up the wall, painting it a solid color, and determine any next steps later.

If Stegman has some ideas, Stainbrook said he'd like to see them.

Council member Dana Johnson said that from what she's been told, a possible concept would incorporate art and Crookston's history. "It wouldn't be some random picture," she said. "It would be very high quality."

Stainbrook, a painter by trade, said that the wall likely needs to be tuck-pointed before any paint job is considered. "If you paint something there and the tuck-pointing isn't sound, you'll have water issues and peeling paint," he said.

The task force will be formed and will come back with various options by March 2013. With grants often funding similar projects, they will be pursued as well.

Council member Tom Jorgens said doing something at this point is better than doing nothing at the neglected corner. "This has gone on way too long already," he said. "Let's figure it out and get it done."