Dayton artist Willis “Bing” Davis has signed on to help design the Third Street Bridge replacement in a way that promises to make one of the city’s most prominent bridges a destination in itself.
Based at his 1135 West Third Street gallery, Davis is an internationally known visual artist who’s exhibited in the U.S. and abroad including the Studio Museum of Harlem, American Craft Museum, the National Museum of Art of Senegal West Africa, and the U.S. Embassy in Accra, Ghana.
Newer bridge replacements downtown across the Great Miami River have incorporated artistic touches such as bright, changeable lighting and other flourishes. Those include the Wolf Creek and Stewart Street bridges.
The intent is to create a distinctive-looking bridge that is a source of public pride and “a lasting symbol of hope,” Davis said. The bridge is designated the Peace Bridge after the Dayton Peace Accords, and is on the route of the Martin Luther King Day march.
It’s symbolic for many, too, because it connects the city’s east and west sides.
Davis will be collaborating with Creative Design Resolutions Inc., a bridge designer located in Baltimore hired for the project. It’s the same design firm that came up with the concept for the Interstate 70/Interstate 75 interchange.
A preliminary design should be available early next year. Davis is also working with designers of the Olson Memorial Bridge in Minneapolis over Interstate 94. It’s another city gateway project that’s incorporating local artistic input.
Davis said he’d like the entire Third Street Bridge to be designed in a way that would attract visitors because of its unique, local style.
“Anything to do with the bridge has the potential to be enhanced aesthetically,” he said. “The bridge rails, the arches, the abutments that hold the bridge up. It’s like a blank canvas. It’s that kind of an approach — that people will come to the bridge for the bridge.”
Replacement of the bridge is long overdue and has been delayed by lack of funding. The oldest parts of the bridge — the footers in the river — date to 1906. The upper deck was built in 1949.
It underwent emergency repairs in 2010 and 2011 after a section of the deck buckled. Construction is scheduled to begin in February 2019 and finish in October 2020. The new bridge is expected to cost $19 million.
“He’ll offer ideas and concepts,” Montgomery County Engineer Paul Gruner said. “We think it will be a great project when it completes.”
The cost of the work, according to the county’s agreement with Davis, is not to exceed $20,000.
The Wolf Creek Bridge on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard and Stewart Street bridges have color-adjustable LED lighting.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she’s excited about the project.
“We’ve seen a movement in Dayton in the past few years for bridges to mean more than moving traffic across it - providing links to neighborhoods and links in the city,” Whaley said. “Having Bing Davis on the Third Street Bridge project is very powerful and a great move.”
Ras Calhoun, 64, of Dayton, was strolling along the river levee near the bridge Monday afternoon. A writer and activist, Calhoun said he’s eager to see the new design and what it could symbolize.
“They call this the Peace Bridge, and it’s a bridge over troubled waters — connecting the east side of the city with the west. I’d like to see Dayton represent peace. I’d like this to be a part of the new peace of the new city.”