A once forgettable stairway in the Old City now can't be missed!

The black metal steps, connecting the Gay Street Viaduct with the Old City’s Jackson Avenue below, have been transformed into a colorful mural by Robin Easter Design.

The “Stories” mural depicts iconic images of Knoxville, and the city also upgraded the lighting on the staircase as part of the project.

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Work has been going on for several months, and now the stairway is open, and just in time!

Later this year, Jackson Avenue will close at Gay Street for about 12 months while the 98-year-old ramps are rebuilt. The steps will be the only way for pedestrians to walk from Gay to Jackson.

Original story: March 15, 2018

Knoxville's Old City neighborhood is about to get a little bit brighter, and a little bit harder to drive through.

If you go to North Gay Street and the edge of the Old City, you may have noticed a winding staircase connecting down to Jackson Avenue.

It's not exactly a noteworthy or memorable set of stairs.

But it's about to be, and it's because of the ramps that lead from Gay Street down into the Old City.

In a couple months, they'll be torn down for repair, and the reconstruction is expected to take about a year.

That means the boring old staircase will be the only way for pedestrians to walk from Gay to Jackson.

"It actually is kind of a hidden little staircase, but will become a real important part," said Robin Thomas, the marketing coordinator for the Downtown Knoxville Central Business Improvement District.

To ease the growing pains of construction, the steps are about to be transformed into a vibrant statement piece entering the Old City.

Schematic for new Old City staircase mural
The mural, designed by Erik Vass of Robin Easter Design, will be finished by the end of April.

Robin Easter Design is working closely with Downtown Knoxville to come up with a mural that embodies all the things that make our city great.

Some of those highlights are World's Fair Park, the University of Tennessee's body farm, and of course, Peyton Manning.

"We wanted to create something that would really be a destination, that would be a tourist stop for out-of-towners to learn more about Knoxville but also for people who live in Knoxville who come downtown," said Robin Easter of Robin Easter Design.

Erik Vass, a designer with her firm, is responsible for creating the colorful tribute to Knoxville.

His piece is the first of its kind in Knoxville.

The colorful mural will double as an interactive scavenger hunt. You'll be able to print off a guide, and search the stairwell while you walk.

"Then you can go to the website, which will tell the answers, and tell you a little bit more history about all fun facts," Easter said.

Paint will be hitting the pavement soon, hoping to make this empty stairwell a hidden gem.

"We think once it's painted people will come here and want to do pictures and it'll get people down to the Old City," Thomas said.

The mural is scheduled to be finished and ready for use by April 20.