How do tourists find the new free parking options in Saratoga Springs?
That’s one of the major questions that could be answered by a proposal from the Saratoga Springs Downtown Special Assessment District to update downtown signs, so they’re clear and fit the city’s historic feel. A presentation will be made on Wednesday to the city’s Design Review Commission to get the project off the ground.
A rough sketch of the proposal will be made by special assessment district member Michael Ingersoll, who will outline the results of a study commissioned a few years ago by the Vermont-based Landworks. About $40,000 was spent by the special assessment district for the study, which reviewed signage at gateways to the city and throughout the downtown.
Landworks is involved in planning, landscape architecture and graphic design. Its work includes designing a gateway to the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park and more than two decades of projects in Middlebury, Vt., where they’ve remade the city’s gateways, made pedestrian and bicycle friendly environments and overhauled the visual landscape.
A key element of Landworks’ mission is wayfinding, which the company describes as “finding one’s way to destinations.” In the example of Saratoga Springs, the wayfinding initiatives they proposed were aimed at making navigation easier for visitors and residents who were traveling by various means. This means helping people get where they’re going and also highlighting businesses, attractions and amenities that might go unnoticed.
The full report by Landworks can be found on the Around Saratoga blog.
Additionally, their proposal included reducing the number of signs in the downtown area.
“There is a tremendous amount of clutter,” said Ingersoll. “We believe there is more signage than is required.”
The report highlights the abundance of uncoordinated elements at the corner of Broadway and Church Street, where 14 items, including street poles, signs and a clock, compete for attention. Distractions can be limited, according to the report, by consolidating, eliminating and relocating signs.
One of the challenges highlighted by Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott Johnson are all the state route signs along Broadway. Anyone walking or driving down the city’s main thoroughfare is inundated with signs for routes 9, 50 and 29.
“You can’t really touch them,” said Johnson, referring to laws dictating where they’re placed and what they look like.
Ingersoll said there are some instances in historical districts where communities have gotten permission to tweak signs advertising state routes, but he wasn’t sure that would be an option in downtown Saratoga Springs.
Highlighting the new parking options in the city, including the Woodlawn Avenue parking garage, is also the focus of overhauling downtown signage. Johnson said new signs could answer questions about parking like: “Where is it? How do I get to it?”
There are two different design concepts being proposed by Landworks. These sign proposals vary in terms of font, sign posts and colors. One concept uses Modern sans-serif lettering and green powder-coated steel posts. The second concept uses black powder-coated steel posts and a serif font. Both concepts use reflective lettering, universal pictograms and color-coded amenities.
Landworks is also recommending the city install kiosks in the downtown area. These kiosks could direct residents and visitors to commercial, cultural and public destinations, like restrooms.
The report urges the adoption of electronic wayfinding, which would allow people to use their mobile devices to better traverse the area.
It’s not clear who would pay for this, as Ingersoll said the project is only in its early stages. The special assessment district is funded by property owners in the downtown area.
Approval of the Design Review Commission is needed because they oversee changes to the city’s historic areas, including downtown. “We’re just trying to keep it on the front burner,” said Ingersoll of the upcoming meeting. New signs are not expected to be in place for this summer’s tourist season.