OAKLAND -- The large concrete retaining wall on Mountain Boulevard just north of Montclair Village is an unattractive eyesore.

But the facade may undergo a transformation, thanks to a mural project spearheaded by the Montclair Safety Improvement Council, Montclair's neighborhood crime prevention panel.

Fundraising will officially begin this week, with the group sending mailers to Montclair residents about the project and seeking donations. The goal is to raise $60,000 for the mural and to beautify the surrounding area. The project was approved by the Public Arts Advisory Commission this past winter. The goal is to begin the project by fall.

"I've walked past this wall every day for the last eight years. It looked like it had potential," said Jill Broadhurst, the MSIC's chair. "I'm sure I'm not the first person that had this idea. Oakland loves murals and public art. It's a matter of resources and time."

Resident Josh Shaw had the same idea. The trestle remnant was one of the first things he noticed when he moved to the area six years ago.

"It's a necessary evil, but it doesn't have to be blank," Shaw said. "It's the perfect canvas for Oakland artists."

Daniel Swafford, of the Montclair Village Association, connected Shaw with the MSIC, which had been discussing the idea of the project for the past couple of years. The concrete edifice is the remnant of a railroad trestle that was part of the Sacramento North line that passed through Montclair Village on its way to the city.

The track was used for cargo, including lumber that was forested from the canyon and beyond, and was even used a passenger train for a couple of years, bringing people from San Francisco to spend the day.

The project will produce a trompe l'oeil rendition of what the area actually looked like as late as the early 20th century, depicting the train pulling onto the trestle that extended over Mountain Boulevard.

Local muralist Andrew Johnstone has been commissioned to create the mural. Johnstone completed a mural at Woodminster -- on the side of Woodminster market -- that pays homage to Joaquin Miller Park and the area's natural beauty. Johnstone did research on the railroad line and produced a 3D model of the line and an engine that will be transposed onto the wall.

"Public art is an investment in the community," Shaw said.

"It creates a conversation in the community about something besides money, politics and religion. It sounds like a cliché, but the reason we are doing this is for people to enjoy it and to humanize an industrial relic."

FYI
The learn more about the Montclair mural project, go to www.montclairsic.org.