The trek from 100 Block businesses to the parking lot behind them is a little brighter.
In November, local artist Tyler Kissel completed a mural on the northeast-facing wall of T’z Pub in the 100 Block passageway, while in January PowerTech finished installation of festoon lighting over part of the walkway.
The efforts are part of an effort by The 712 Initiative to improve underused public areas.
“Something to draw more attention to the space,” said Lynn Dittmer, director of redevelopment at The 712 Initiative.
The 712 Initiative said it hopes the new improvements, along with existing benches, will encourage pedestrians to linger in the space. The work was funded by an AARP Iowa Community Challenge Grant.
The mural features the word “ENJOY” in large letters, with a brilliant sun setting behind a hill-lined lake. Flanking the script are the Iowa state bird, the eastern goldfinch, and an Altamira oriole.
Kissel said he worked to create a juxtaposition.
“We’re in a business district. I wanted to make a window to someplace more serene, calming,” he said during a meet-up of the various passageway project stakeholders on Tuesday. “Having that polarity shift, with the bright color scheme and natural elements.”
The artist said he put about 100 hours into the work on the commissioned piece, which was completed in November. Kissel’s been an artist for years, and works in a variety of media, including woodworking with paint elements, illustrations, signage and typeface and dioramas.
The mural is inviting and adds a splash of brilliant color to the area. Adding to the ambiance are the zig-zagging lights over the passageway, which are fastened to anchor points that match old anchors on the building, keeping with the historic feel of the area, according to Josh Kallsen, president of PowerTech. The local business provided the materials and labor in-kind to get the work done, according to 712.
“We want to be involved in the community,” Kallsen said of PowerTech, which has been in Council Bluffs for five years. “Plus we love what 712 is doing. I think it’s very worthwhile. When they asked us to be involved, I jumped at it.”
T’z Pub is taking on the energy costs for the lights. Bar owner Trent Tiessen said the cost is miniscule and worth it.
“I had the power, I had the space,” Tiessen said. “This will allow people to enjoy this space. And it makes my building look a lot more aesthetically pleasing.”
Tiessen said he’s hopeful additional improvements are made to the walkway. He floated the idea of paving the entire area, which in turn led to the idea among those gathered about space for hop scotch, large chess and other opportunities for outdoor fun. Tiessen said he had chalk hop scotch in front of his bar during the warmer months that proved wildly popular.
“It was pretty cool,” Tiessen said.
“Something unexpected,” Dittmer said.
Dittmer said The 712 Initiative looked at underused space and said, “how can we bring attention to it, how can we make it a place to stop?” The organization also plans to work on the crosswalk across West Broadway and install additional lighting northward to cover the area up to the alley.
Dittmer said plans are in the works for pop-up events in the space that feature games, activities and possibly live music, COVID-19 willing.