Monday, May 25, 2015

Why the holdup with Phillies mural?

The building at 24th and Walnut Streets where the Phillies mural will be displayed, with reliever Tug McGraw leaping on the outside of the chimney. Note the railroad tracks belonging to CSX, which raised safety concerns during negotiations.
The building at 24th and Walnut Streets where the Phillies mural will be displayed, with reliever Tug McGraw leaping on the outside of the chimney. Note the railroad tracks belonging to CSX, which raised safety concerns during negotiations.
The building at 24th and Walnut Streets where the Phillies mural will be displayed, with reliever Tug McGraw leaping on the outside of the chimney. Note the railroad tracks belonging to CSX, which raised safety concerns during negotiations. Gallery: The Phillies mural project

Another summer is almost over, and still no signs of a giant Phillies mural next to the Walnut Street Bridge.

Old paint is still flaking, ivy is still growing, and trash is still strewn at the bottom of a wall where, starting last summer, likenesses of Tug McGraw and Brad Lidge were expected to immortalize the thrill of victory, while legendary sluggers Mike Schmidt and Ryan Howard were to cross bats with their follow-throughs.

The holdup had nothing to do with the mural itself, said artist David McShane, whose design was unveiled in September 2011. Fans then helped paint it in pieces -- 143 five-foot squares of cloth – during the winter of 2011 and the spring of 2012. The Phillies initially said installation might take place that summer.

But the rolls of fabric – depicting Robin Roberts, Harry Kalas, the Phanatic, Charlie Manuel and a couple dozen other famous Phillies figures -- have been stored in McShane’s Bala Cynwyd studio ever since.

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  • Apparently, the project got bogged down in negotiations involving the Mural Arts Project, which is overseeing the process; Walnut Bridge Associates, which owns the building at 24th and Walnut Streets; and railroad company CSX, which owns land behind the building where its train tracks run along the Schuylkill.

    The latest hope is that wall prep and stuccoing might happen this fall, with the mural finally displayed in its full glory around Opening Day next spring.

    “We're excited that we're on the verge of moving forward,” said Michael Harris, the club’s director of marketing and special projects.

    But the timetable isn't rock-solid yet. CSX, although supportive, hadn’t fully signed off, as of last week.

    “Because the proposal involves the use of CSX property for the creation of the mural, CSX is reviewing the plans to ensure they do not compromise safety for the mural creators or the railroad or interfere with rail operations,” according to an official statement from CSX. "We are working with the program and appreciate the desire to create the mural."

    Six stories’ worth of scaffolding will need to be set up about sixty feet from CSX’s tracks.

    The scaffolding could be secured from the roof, said Kate Jacobi, who is overseeing the project for Mural Arts.

     "I think it was just the back and forth of different options" that prolonged the process, she said. "... But we have a good plan going forward, and I think people will be excited."

    "We're disappointed in the delay, but the most important thing is to do this right to everybody's satisfaction,” Harris said. He expressed confidence the fundamental issues have been resolved.

    “We're very supportive of the project and we look forward to its coming to fruition,” said Kristen Koenigsbauer, project manager for University City Housing Co., parent company of Walnut Bridge Associates.

    Money issues were not a snag, all the parties agreed.

    After the wall is readied, stucco will be applied and allowed to cure, McShane explained. The plan is to use an acrylic gel glue that’s thicker than mayonnaise to bond the fabric sheets to the wall.

    “There are definitely going to be some touch-ups," he said.

    The mural -- looming large for folks on the Walnut Street Bridge or the Schuylkill River Trail below, and visible to motorists on the Schuylkill Expressway (I-76) -- will feature players, managers, broadcasters, the Phanatic, the fans and three stadiums: Shibe Park, later known as Connie Mack Stadium; Veterans Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.

    Besides Schmidt, Roberts and Kalas, other Hall of Famers portrayed are pitchers Grover Cleveland Alexander, Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton; outfielders Ed Delahanty and Chuck Klein; and outfielder/broadcaster Richie Ashburn.

    World Series-winning manager Dallas Green will be on it, too.

    The rest of the roster: pitchers Mitch Williams, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, shortstops Larry Bowa and Jimmy Rollins, catchers Darren Daulton and Carlos Ruiz, first baseman Dick Allen, second basemen Tony Taylor and Chase Utley, and outfielder Greg Luzinski.

    For more details, go to the Phillies mural page.

    Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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