The project is in response to requests from local cultural institutions, businesses and tourist attractions to update the signage, according to Rachel Flynn, director of the city planning and development department.
The city will pay the consultants just over $100,000 to develop the new signs and has appropriated another $900,000 to have them made and put up, according to a city spokesman.
“Every bit of it could be spent, and we really want this done right. [The costs] can add up quickly, especially if it is a comprehensive package,” Flynn said.
Design firm Two Twelve Associates was awarded the project in partnership with local firm BAM Architects. Two Twelve’s previous clients include the cities of Charlotte, Baltimore and New York.
The signs to be replaced include those along the interstates and the ones along city streets.
“There are the red, white and blues ones that are the most recent, and the green and blue signs before that. It would be nice if we could stick with the most recent one,” Flynn said. “That is something we will work with the consultant on.
“This is what they do for a living. They know what colors are most eye-catching.”
Two Twelve and BAM Architects were among seven firms that responded to the city’s request and were reviewed by the city with the help of representatives from museums and cultural attractions.
Burt Pinnock, co-founder of BAM Architects, said his firm’s goal is to improve the experience for people visiting local attractions — and keep them from getting lost.
“Getting from a major gateway like 95 or 64, to, say, to riverfront, to the Coliseum, to Tredegar, to a parking deck, to fill-in-the-blank — there are a lot of big gaps in how all of that works,” Pinnock said.
Pinnock described a section in Shockoe Bottom where someone could end up driving in circles on one-way streets trying to follow signs to area destinations.
In the age of GPS and smart phones, that might not be as big of a problem as it once was, but Pinnock said updating the signage isn’t just about helping people get around more easily.
“Not only does it have to do with way-finding, it also has to do with brand identity of a metropolitan area. Also, as much as we rely on some of that technology, it’s not always the easiest thing.”
Scott Bergman, who owns Haunts of Richmond Ghost Tours, said he doesn’t hear too many customers complain about getting lost on the way to his tours’ departure points, one of which is at the Poe Museum in Shockoe Bottom.
“If you look for the signage, it is there. You’ll see it. It could be a little more eye-catching to guide people a little easier,” Bergman said.
He said that most people easily find the Poe Museum using online directions or a GPS and that he hasn’t had a problem with people not being able to find the place. But better signs could help draw in folks without a particular destination in mind.
“If you have a tourist coming from out of town that doesn’t have a strict agenda plan, suddenly they are going to rely on the signage,” Bergman said, “I am a definitely a proponent of making the various attractions crystal clear for someone who is that casual tourist.”
Al Harris is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]