The City of New Westminster says it will give $70,000 to whoever comes up with the best plan to spruce up a fire escape that's been dubbed the "staircase to nowhere."

Municipal arts co-ordinator Biliana Velkova said the city wants to transform the three-storey, galvanized steel structure on Front Street into "something interactive, something that works with light or with sound."

Some nearby residents, however, had much simpler advice on how to turn what many consider an eyesore into something more presentable.

"If you're going to leave it there, paint it and put hanging baskets on it," said one woman.

"I'd paint it black. I'd make a feature out of it. I'd change the railings," said another man.

The city is taking proposals on how to transform the metal structure into a work of art until March 31.

The winning artist will get $70,000 to bring their vision to life.

That number is causing debate among local business owners, some of whom are worried the money for the project will ultimately end up coming out of their pockets.

"They seem to think that there's an endless supply of money in New Westminster. Let's just raise the taxes another one per cent," said Harm Woldring, who owns The Wine Factory.

Others say they're in favour of the beautification project.

"I'm all for public art," said Stephanie Vu, who owns the Old Crow Coffee Co. "I think it enhances the city."

The municipality says they money will come from its reserve fund.

In 2016, the city tore down a parkade on Front Street that contained a fire escape for the neighbouring heritage building. It installed the $200,000 staircase last spring as a mandatory replacement.

It took several more months for the city to actually connect the staircase to the building. In that time, the fire escape got its playful name: "staircase to nowhere."

With files from CTV Vancouver’s St John Alexander