The City of Danville took steps this week toward developing a signage system for the River District that will welcome visitors to the district, direct motorists to public parking and attractions, and help pedestrians explore the district.
The wayfinding system also will project a consistent image for the district, which is in its fourth year of development.
The city has contracted with AECOM to guide the wayfinding effort. AECOM representatives arrived in Danville this week to study traffic circulation patterns and existing signage. Representatives also held design charrettes to gather community input on possible designs for the signage.
The consulting team lamented over the current lack of signage.
“When we arrived, we experienced the town as a first-time visitor,” said Ana Oropeza, a graphic designer and planner for AECOM. “We came in at 10:30 at night, and we never knew when we were in Danville. Only when we arrived downtown did we know we were in Danville.”
Oropeza said wayfinding signage can not only provide a “wow factor” but also a sense of safety and comfort in knowing that “you have arrived at your destination.”
She explained that visitors will plan their travel experience – such as a weekend getaway – by gathering information from a website and other sources. Once they have made their plan, they must easily get to their destination.
“When you arrive, you need to have a sense that you have been there before,” Oropeza said.
The consultants determined entry points into the River District. Gateway “welcome” signs are planned at these points.
Secondary gateway signs are planned at closer to the district.
Within the district, vehicular and pedestrian directional signage will point to public parking and various attractions. Map kiosks will show pedestrians not only where they are, but what else there is to explore within the district.
The consultants sketched several designs, and then they sought community feedback. This feedback will be used in developing recommendations on the colors, dimensions, graphics and materials for the signs.
The consultants also will produce guidelines for placement and sign maintenance schedules.
They expect to present their work for final review by the end of January. Once approved, the city will seek bids for the project. The current timetable calls for the signs to be in place in June.
The city earlier this year set aside capital improvement funds for the project, which is targeted only for the River District at this point, but can later be expanded for the entire city.
The River District includes the traditional central business district, historic tobacco warehouse district and manufacturing area, and contiguous areas. This area has been the commercial and administrative heart of the city since the 1790s.
This year marks the fourth year of the River District Development Project. The city has adopted design guidelines for the look and feel of the district. The guidelines list appropriate materials, outline procedures and explain what types of architectural elements are expected for the district’s existing buildings and new construction. A seven-member commission has been appointed to enforce the guidelines.
Two phases of streetscape improvements are complete, with the latest featuring the JTI Fountain and Main Street Plaza. Public, outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots are now available in the 300, 400 and 500 blocks on Main Street, with expansions coming. Utilities upgrades are in place. Patton Street now allows two-way traffic to provide better access to businesses and parking lots serving stores on Main Street. A new parking lot is open at 500 Main St., and a parking study for the full district is finished and serves as a guide for the future. Private investments are being made in the district, and the city has received state money to create a pedestrian lane on the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge to connect walking trails on the north and south side of the Dan River.
In addition to the wayfinding system, the city is in the process of creating a branding platform for the River District. The platform will be unveiled in the spring of 2015.