“A community may want to consider a special set of street graphic regulations for Areas of Special Character…”  Street Graphics and the Law  (APA/PAS)

Wall murals have been used effectively in “Main Street” revitalization efforts for many years – and often in smaller historic cities (as shown).  As new urbanism spreads to the suburbs (and more retail areas are struggling to recover) such murals may now be considered to add interest for more conventional shopping areas.

But such dramatic installations can also be controversial or jarring to the community character.  Even an interesting new graphic can quickly become “dated.” And for towns which have architectural design review, oversized signage may be proposed as a low cost substitute for more appealing or functional architectural details, such as display windows.

Last but not least, regulation of the content for a space dedicated to artwork can become a legal and regulatory nightmare – especially under evolving constitutional standards and more recent US Supreme Court case law. As quoted above, thoughtful and thorough consideration can best balance these challenges and new opportunities!

In my hometown of Glenview, IL all these issues are being considered for Downtown redevelopment.  What do you think?

– John Hedrick, Advocate for better communities through design



  • Kind of a cool idea but I would be a no on this, especially for this site. It’s already controversial and there is no way there would be agreement on whether to do a mural or not. Also, I do worry about regulating it.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Sue. Agreed that best side is already unduly controversial. But this is a bigger issue for Glenview and other communities.

  • Hi John,
    I have seen many wall murals on our road trips out west. Many of them are quite attractive. Many of them also fit the respective landscaping environments that they are in, such as New Mexico, along Route 66, Arizona, etc.. However, in a suburban town like Glenview, I would say, “Thanks, but no thanks”. I believe this would set a precedent that might lead to murals being painted that become political statements, which we could do without.
    No, No, No!!!

    • That’s what’s so tough about this issue, Hank. Once you designate the space for artistic expression, government can’t control the message. And this is a big step from a tourist route to a suburban community.

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