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Albemarle council adopts wayfinding plan

The Albemarle City Council approved the adoption of a wayfinding plan that would better help travelers to navigate the city, especially its downtown area, in the future.

The city has been working with Greenville, South Carolina-based Arnett Muldrow & Associates, a creative planning firm, since last year to develop a plan for new signage around the city. The city has a history with the company as it helped design Albemarle’s downtown plan in 2001.

According to its website, Arnett Muldrow has helped roughly 550 communities in 40 states including Rutherfordton in North Carolina and Fort Mill and Sumter in South Carolina.

Wayfinding refers to information systems — like city signs — that guide people through a physical environment and enhance their understanding of the space. The wayfinding system is part of a streetscape master plan that the council adopted in 2016.

Assistant City Manager Nyki Hardy, who’s a member of the Downtown Vitality Project Team, which has worked with Arnett Muldrow, said funding for the project was appropriated in the current budget and a project budget has been established in anticipation for a multi-year, phased implementation.

DVPT has also received quotes from a few companies regarding how much it would cost to develop new signage around the city, especially in the downtown area.

“We want to create and reinforce a sense of place,”consultant Tripp Muldrow told council, “so that as visitors get to the boundaries of your community, they see they’ve entered a community, there’s an identity here, there’s a personality and we want to try and convey that to as many people as we can.”

Examples of some wayfinding signs for the city.

Through the wayfinding system, city destinations can be aggregated together onto one sign, thereby removing excess signs that might have accumulated in an area.

Muldrow spoke about updating the city’s gateway signs (erected at entrances to the city) along with curating the visitor experience which involves creating specific trailblazer signs indicating specific destinations and the best routes to get to them. The new gateway signs will include the city’s brand featuring the water, air and land icons and the brown and blue color palettes.

The new signs will have the city’s brand style, icons and colors.

Arnett Muldrow is also working with the city to create updated parking and pedestrian signs along with color-coded signs associated with the city’s parks.

Examples of color-coded signs for the city’s parks.

Hardy told council that between the current fiscal budget and the upcoming fiscal budget, $150,000 will be allocated to develop signs for the downtown area and other parts of the city including the parks.

With the council having adopted the plan, city staff will now begin implementation, which starts with the downtown area. Staff has received quotes from sign vendors and requested additional funds for wayfinding in the FY2021-2022 budget, to add to the existing project budget.

When asked about the material for the new signs, Hardy said it will vary depending on which vendor the city selects for the construction. But she assured council that unlike the current park signs, the material would not be wood.

Though the wayfinding signs are initially created in communities to curate the visitor experience, the residents always end up loving them, Muldrow said.

“It just reinforces the pride and it reminds citizens of all the great things in their community.”

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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