City moves to revamp street signs

Community leaders and urban planners gathered at the New Haven Free Public Library Tuesday evening to discuss a plan to replace the city’s pedestrian and street signs, many of which have grown dilapidated and out of date.

The city won a $670,000 grant to renew its signage system in 2011, which will fund the design, construction an placement of new signs around the city. Merje, a leading Pennsylvania-based design firm in street signs, has been brought in to plan the overhaul of the city’s current signage system. Officials from Merje and the New Haven Department of Economic Development held the Tuesday evening meeting to explain their plan to residents and solicit feedback from the public.

The signs, many of which are over 20 years old, are being replaced because many of them contain out-of-date information or appear decrepit, with many signs leaning, worn and peeling, said John Bosio, a Merje official spearheading the New Haven effort. When signs look old and dilapidated, people are less likely to trust the information they see on them, Bosio said.

“Where are the destinations? Where are people trying to get to?” said Steve Gibson, president of Urban Place Consulting Group. These are the key questions, he said, that designers should be asking when creating a wayfinding system for cities like New Haven.

In a presentation highlighting the key goals of the new signage system, Bosio said that his objectives included reducing visual clutter, making parking signs more prominent, integrating technology into the signs and encouraging using multiple forms of transportation, such as providing information for bus-to-train transfers.

Beyond these basic functions, officials said they hope to use the signage system to market New Haven destinations. Mike Piscatelli, director of economic development for the city, additionally spoke of the economic benefits of wayfinding, like directing visitors and residents more efficiently to shops, restaurants and hotels. Already, Merge has started meeting with local stakeholders to discuss how better signage can lead consumers more effectively to their businesses.

“People are more likely to stay longer and more likely to come back,” Bosio said of the promotional effects signage can bring to local businesses and the city in general.

The project will not only replace current street signs, but also add a much-needed crop of pedestrian signs for shoppers, students and tourists alike. This pedestrian signage will be focused in the downtown area, but other areas with high pedestrian traffic may be included, according to Bosio.

Merje and city officials plan to work on design and fieldwork in 2014, before seeking approval for the final project proposal. The signage system will most likely be implemented in 2015, Piscatelli said.

A color for the new signs has not yet been decided.

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