Economic Development

Downtown Signage to Reflect Its ‘Eclectic’ Character

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The prototypes of new signage for the downtown and the major routes into the city should arrive within the next month, the Youngstown director of downtown events, Michael McGiffin, said Tuesday.

McGiffin updated some 45 downtown stakeholders of the Economic Action Group on Studio Graphique’s plans to design directional signs, information kiosks and banners.

Before taking a tour of the city for inspiration, Studio Graphique asked the committee to come up with words its members think best describe the city. Among them were “vibrant,” “young and old,” “schizophrenic,” and “tired.” Sifting through the results, the Cleveland-based design firm chose three it deemed most appropriate and most inappropriate. At the top of the list were “eclectic,” “gritty” and “bold,” while “subtle,” “clean” and “refined” were at the bottom.

“Those are good. People want to be refined and clean and traditional and subtle. But that’s not what Youngstown is,” McGiffin said. “When you walk around Youngstown, you get a sense of grit. As you should. It’s what we once were and it’s what we are. Those characteristics fit us pretty well.”

From there, Studio Graphique created two themes: Eclectic – using a mix of script and text fonts and signs reminiscent of public art – and Transformation, which mixes dark browns and grays with bright, warm colors to draw attention to them.

McGiffin asked for responses to each theme and, by a wide majority, those at the meeting favored the Eclectic theme. He also explained where the new signs will be placed, noting that nothing is set.

“There are different signs for different purposes. We’ll see further down the road what the destination points and arrival points are, along with what people need to be thinking about in different areas,” he said. “This way-finding project is not for us. It’s for people who are coming, traveling, getting off the exit or coming in on a main route and need direction once they’re here.”

Signs will first be posted at highway exits – dubbed “trailblazer” signs that announce how to get downtown – and lead to gateway signs closer to downtown, to “celebrate” a visitor’s arrival – before posting directional signs for both cars and pedestrians and info kiosks.

Studio Graphique suggested improvements to lighting and sidewalks to downtown destinations. The route many Youngstown natives would take to get from Covelli Centre to Federal Plaza would be down Boardman Street to Market Street.

“We want to re-associate the travel path from Covelli Centre back to [Central] Square. When we suggested that, they said we needed better lighting, better directions,” McGiffin said. “They said they wouldn’t walk that way as visitors because of that.”

Dominic C. Marchionda, city-university planning coordinator for the Youngstown State University Center for Urban and Regional Studies, also announced the group now has a website – EAGYO.org – to announce upcoming meetings and events, as well as making the group’s Downtown Vision & Action Plan available for download.

“We live in a digital age and everyone here seems very in tune when it comes to using Web technology and the latest apps,” Marchionda explained. “When we were writing the action plan and getting feedback, we wanted to make it as digestible and broken down by objective and initiative. The website can make it more enhanced and accessible for people to be a part of this.”

Marchionda says he hopes the website will be used to plan and coordinate the meetings, making all presentations available.

Garbage cans downtown will be relocated or replaced in coming months, Youngstown CityScape associate director Phil Kidd said. The current locations of trashcans, he said, don’t reflect pedestrian traffic patterns, resulting in some cans overflowing while others sit unused.

“The areas like Front Street, Commerce Street, Wood Street, lower Fifth Avenue near the WRTA station have no trash cans whatsoever,” Kidd said. “One of the issues we’re working on is identifying where the receptacles are and figuring out how we can take what we have right now and better position it.”

Along with the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, CityScape is working on developing a catalog of outdoor furnishings such as trashcans and benches to help build a consistent look throughout downtown. Such guides, he noted, are common in larger cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

A project is needed to bury the utility lines along Wick Avenue as well as widen it and improve sidewalks, CityScape’s executive director, Sharon Letson, said.

“It’s our cultural area and it’s in need of some work,” she said. “The Butler [Institute of American Art] told us they Photoshop the lines out of their official pictures. With this, no one along Wick [would] have to do that anymore.”

Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs for the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, asked nonprofit groups and community organizations to prepare requests should there be funding in the state’s capital budget for the next biennium. The criteria for the Office of Budget and Management, Coviello said, are the project must be to build or acquire a capital facility owned by the state or that would have a joint-use agreement with the state, not be an infrastructure project, and be economically viable.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.