If you’ve driven down 13th Street in downtown Columbus, you’ve probably seen the faces painted the old Regions Bank Building at the corner of Second Avenue.
The mural is a collaboration between Columbus developer Chris Woodruff and Opelika street artist R.C. Hagans.
The mural shows images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not as we usually know him from history, but as a 9-year-old child long before his destiny took hold and he transformed into the leader we remember him as today.
Two downtown buildings are about to be transformed as part of a chunk of property Woodruff has purchased, and those familiar faces will be up for about four months. Then the property will be transformed into a multi-use development. There will be restaurants, retail stores, office space, and greenspace — lots of greenspace.
The former Regions Bank building at the 13th and Second Avenue and the old Ray’s Body Shop at 13th and Third Avenue will be renovated. A new building, fronting 13th, will be constructed between them,
Woodruff says he’s going to call the development Highside Market, bringing an old bank and what used to be a body shop back to a new life.
“Highside Market is a place for all made by all,” Woodruff told News 3 in an exclusive. “It’s a community destination. It is 55,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, office space, community gathering spots, and a greenspace park, outdoor lounge areas, rooftop decks. It’s a place where people can just come and be.”
The mural on the bank building sits at the corner of 13th Street and Second Avenue and was painted to say something different, to make a statement, at least according to Woodruff.
“We wanted to do something intriguing. Something that would not be as recognizable upon first glance,” Woodruff said. “And there is something about his image of Dr. King. A 9-year-old image of Dr. King as a schoolboy who probably didn’t at the time know what he was destined for.”
Using a stencil and spray paint, Hagans put the young King’s face on the building almost 70 times. The mural will only be on the building for about four months until Woodruff’s plans to bring new life to space begin.
“Construction will begin first quarter of 2021,” Woodruff said. “We will be attacking the whole site at one time. With the intent to redevelop the existing two buildings plus construct a new building along the 13th Street corridor.”
Woodruff said he plans to make this area a Tax Allocation District so that some of the taxes generated will be pumped back into local infrastructure, like the streetscapes along Second Avenue, Third Avenue, and 13th Street.
The combination of art and development in downtown Columbus is something unique to the city’s flavor, mixing the new and the old with flashes of history. When the development begins on the Regions Bank Building in 2021, the combination of renovation and new construction will preserve and update the historic space for a new generation.
Hagans used a photo that was in the public domain.
“I call these kinds of pieces unconsensual collaboration,” he said. “The photographer who took this photo 70 or so years ago didn’t know that some street art vandal was going to be messing with it in the year 2020. But here we are collaborating.”
And, using a Stentzel and spray paint, he put the image on the building nearly 70 times.
“I wanted to appropriately fill the space. But then leave the empty spaces. You are like, ‘Why are they empty? Should something else be there? Are the supposed to be empty?”
Columbus State University student Braxton Williams has worked alongside Hagans. And he’s spent hours looking at the image of a youthful Dr. King.
“Just looking at it over and over again,” Williams said, “it was almost like looking at somebody who’s a part of everybody.”