Lansdale Gets 'App'etizing Sneak Peek at Wayfinding Study
Merje Design, of West Chester, presented the recommendations thus far in a nearly completed wayfinding signage study for Lansdale Borough Monday night. There's also the chance to have Apps developed to help commuters find parking in Lansdale.
Signs of blue and yellow could pop up around Lansdale Borough by Spring 2014, as Lansdale works to implement its upcoming wayfinding study recommendations by West Chester-based firm Merje Design.
The Lansdale Economic Development Committee and Communication Commission got a sneak peak of a 95-percent-complete wayfinding study for the borough. The study, upon completion, will feature recommendations for implementation for directional and informational signage in Lansdale. The study would first go before the EDC and Communication Commission, as well as Lansdale Parking Authority, for review prior to their recommendations for approval to borough council.
Glen Swantek, principal at Merje Design, emphasized that the wayfinding report is influenced greatly by the borough's branding initiative.
Wayfinding features in the preliminary report show trailblazer signs, banners, pedestrian directional panels, gateway signage and three-sided kiosks as resources to point commuters and pedestrians in the proper directions for parking lots, entertainment amenities and the like.
Signage could point to places like 311 W. Main Street and the municipal parking lot at Susquehanna and Derstine avenues, for example. Roadways with high-speed traffic, such as those limited at more than 35 mph, would require larger signs. Lettering on signs would be as small as four inches high to as big as six inches high.
Swantek said Merje relied heavily on the branding initiative in its design phase. All signage is expected to reflect the blue and yellow color palette recommended in the branding narrative by North Star Destination Strategies.
"We felt it was really important for us for designing signs to follow the brand," Swantek said. "We looked at the images and logo and how it's being done. We're using this as our design inspiration."
Swantek said while the panel signs incorporate the brand colors and logo, the poles needed to hold the signs will coordinate with the existing streetscape fixtures. The logo can be replicated on brackets of signs, Swantek said.
Swantek said new poles are recommended for the signs, especially for sign panels up to three feet wide.
"Existing poles could be used for smaller trailblazer signs or pedestrian signs," he said. "That's what we would limit to an existing pole."
Swantek said the design package that will ultimately be adopted by council will include programming for signage, so Lansdale knows "where each sign goes" and can brainstorm "what do we say."
Economic Development Committee Vice Chairman Richard Strahm asked about incorporating new signage for every street sign in the borough.
Swantek said that wasn't part of Merje's design scope, but falls upon public works and the administration.
"You have a lot of signs out there," Swantek said. "The placement can get costly due to quantity."
Merje said it follows the standard for street signage. For instance, in a project in Fredericksburg, Texas, the city is changing out its street signs in its historical district with a new logo and language signifying said district.
"The quantities are more than you think when you go out and count and come up with a budget," Swantek said. "It's usually done in districts or zones."
Strahm said reflectivity on signs, such as on Green Street, could be incorporated along Main Street's downtown district.
"At least for the core district, it would make it a little more attractive," Strahm said.
Swantek said PennDOT right-of-way won't let a town do its own street signage.
"They only do the green one," Swantek said.
He said the signs being recommended are vinyl and reflective at night when light hits them.
"The background and copy will light," he said.
Kiosks, he said, are always a question: Do you light from the interior or install a downlight.
"Maintenance and vandalism are always an issue with kiosks," Swantek said. "What will be the most durable? If the kiosk is at the train station, there is already ambient light around."
Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Mary Fuller asked if using buildings for wayfinding is still on the table.
Swantek said buildings could be used in the wayfinding, although the study includes schematic directions. Building use comes into play with the programming aspect of the study.
"We can come back, and go through it, and look at locations," Swantek said. "Once you have the initial programming document, we can review it."
He also touched upon the idea of murals at the gateways to Lansdale, no doubt referencing the Lansdale Business Association's new murals project.
"Murals are tricky. A lot of times the city doesn't own the building, and you have to get permission from the building owner or paint over an existing mural," he said. "We look for opportunities to do things that are unique. It's not just go and stick a sign in the ground."
Fuller said the wayfinding will soon ease the concerns from people that there is not enough parking in Lansdale.
"In my mind, that is in the forefront. We want to make sure people know (where parking is). There is no shortage of parking; they don't know where (parking areas) are," Fuller said.
Swantek and both committees also touched upon the future opportunity to develop Apps that Smartphone users can access to find parking in Lansdale. There was also talk of developing an App as a complement to the borough's upcoming website facelift.
Communication Commission Chairman Denton Burnell said the Requests for Proposals for the website redesign did not explicitly state the need for an App.
"We can note to include the App component as part of that," Burnell said. "Certainly, we will note it as part of the conversation."
Swantek recommended the borough could have an App that complements the website, where it shows pictures and links for shopping and dining in Lansdale. It could also have another App that addresses parking accessible through the website.
"I don't think it necessarily has to be hinged on the website. It's a template to get information out quickly and geared toward the lifestyle of a borough customer," he said.
Borough Manager Timi Kirchner said Monday night was the third time in a major borough meeting where the idea of Apps was discussed as part of a project.
"There was talk of use of an App, and when you get to the level with parking areas of having signs that tell you this lot is full and having Apps to keep informed of that, it does make sense for us to seriously consider that as part of this and part of the website," Kirchner said.
She said it is a serious topic in Lansdale, where the town has so much commuter parking and rolling groups of people in and out of Lansdale all the time.
"It's good to talk about a parking tool and have an App to inform us where to go to get a parking space," Kirchner said. "It's something we should very seriously look at."
Burnell said the EDC and Communication Commission should be careful of "how much it bites off now versus later."
"Maybe it would be better discussed with the Lansdale Parking Authority to accomplish that," he said.
Merje Design Project Designer Jessica Church said the borough shouldn't wait for Apps to call out parking areas to the public.
"Until you get to that higher level, lots can be called out on a kiosk or map. Pedestrian lots can be called out on pedestrian signs," Church said. "Until the technology is ready, lots can be addressed."
Kirchner said the final wayfinding report would be implemented after major Landsale projects are complete or underway, like the PCTI Wood-Vine Connector Project, 311 W. Main St., and the Madison Lot Redevelopment.
Before that, the study would move through reviews from the parking authority and the Economic Development Committee, she said.
"Translate: It gets a lot of public vetting as it moves through," she said.
Kirchner also lauded public works director Rick DeLong for spearheading the wayfinding project in Lansdale and working alongside Merje Design and the wayfinding steering committee to keep it in motion.