Beautification efforts in downtown Johnson City will soon result in more murals and a new outdoor seating area where visitors can sip coffee, have a meal and use free Wi-Fi.

The city’s Historic Zoning Commission approved plans this week to touch up a bare breezeway connecting East Main Street to the parking lot at Downtown Square, adding bright metal furniture, a bike rack, planters and artwork, including the possibility of two small murals.

“The desire is to activate that space,” said Dianna Cantler, the downtown development director with the Johnson City Development Authority, “to give people a place where they could enjoy outdoor dining at some of our restaurants.”

Not all the financing for the project has been lined up, Cantler said, but officials wanted to be sure they had approval from the Historic Zoning Commission before they moved forward with the final fundraising.

Cantler estimates the project will cost about $37,000, with close to $10,000 already being committed.

The Johnson City Commission approved a $129,000 contract with Mitch Cox Construction Inc. in September to replace one of the breezeway’s veneer walls, which was torn down the year prior after the city noticed it was at risk of falling.

Earlier this month, the JCDA announced that free Wi-Fi access would be available in the 200 and 300 blocks of East Main Street in the historic district, Founders Park and King Commons. The program was funded by the JCDA.

In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Cantler said it’s even more important to add outdoor seating downtown.

“With the COVID regulations and restrictions, there are a lot of people who still are uncomfortable about sitting and dining in a restaurant, but they’re willing to do takeout or curbside,” she said.

New murals

City leaders are also moving forward on new murals in the downtown area, including one on a wall next to Wild Wing Cafe facing Founders Park.

An early version of the mural shows three racially diverse children planting flowers, which Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola said symbolizes unity. The artist, named DAAS, is from Chicago.

Another mural, which will be located where the Stable Convergence logo is downtown, will show people playing music, which will celebrate the region’s bluegrass heritage. Pindzola said it will be funded by the Blue Plum Organization and the Public Art Committee.

The artist working on that mural is based in Montreal and originally submitted a design for the mural at Wild Wing Cafe.

Pindzola said the city is hoping both murals will be installed this year. Members of the committee are still working with the artists to finalize designs.

The Public Art Committee is also hoping to restore the train mural in Majestic Park with its original artist, Bill Bledsoe.

The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Celebration Coalition, which has been organizing events and activities in honor of the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment, will install a mural commemorating the suffrage movement along Ashe Street.