Tempe’s civic leaders have struggled for years to restore the historic Hayden Flour Mill and its towering silos, but with no success to date, they’re setting their sights a bit lower.
They’re fixing up the chain link fence around the mill.
Starting today, 8-foot fabric panels will cover the fence, bearing historic photos of downtown, current Tempe images and renderings of the many new buildings planned nearby. The $5,800 project is seen as a temporary way to distract downtown visitors from the blighted landmark behind the fence, said Kris Baxter, a city spokeswoman.
"It turns something that isn’t very pretty into a piece of art," Baxter said.
The city will post 46 panels, which will cover 440 feet of the fence. The fencing will include a Web address — www.tempe.gov/business — that provides more information on the images.
City officials figured the fence was easily worth the cost, Baxter said, adding that this way of promoting the city is far less expensive than, say, a full-page magazine ad. Also, about 25,000 people pass by the fence a day.
The fence is in a lifeless area that downtown officials have long wanted to make more inviting to pedestrians.
"We’re trying to bridge the gap between the Mill Avenue district and Town Lake, and this is one way of encouraging people to go back and forth," Baxter said.
City officials hope a redeveloped mill will be a permanent way to do that.
Several companies have submitted redevelopment plans, and the city could approve one of those within months.
Workers will be installing the panels today and Thursday.
From 6 to 9 a.m. Thursday, the city will hold an event at the mill so the public can meet the artists who took photos for the panels. The event includes food.