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Council takes first look at wayfinding project

Posted: February 16, 2015 9:43 a.m.
Updated: February 16, 2015 9:39 a.m.

Camden City Council got a gander at a new plan for wayfinding signage throughout the city during its Feb. 10 work session.

The proposal stems from the city’s Tourism Strategic Plan, which recommends development and placement of interpretive signage around the area which incorporates the city’s tourism brand standards. The idea is to give visitors a medium for exploring what Camden has to offer, underpinned by its “Classically Carolina” brand. The plan calls for developing a Wayfinding Master Plan within one year and manufacture and installation of the signs within two years.

Council set aside funding for planning and development for this project in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget; the budget also provides for partial funding for manufacturing and installation. That means some of the signs can be put into place during this fiscal year, City Manager Mel Pearson told council.

However, before the project can move forward, council needs to give approval to the designs, Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther said.

Graham Wimberly, a consultant with SkyDesigns, the Atlanta, Ga., based firm working with the city’s Project Team for this endeavor, gave a brief presentation of this draft of the signage plan. The design firm and the committee, which includes Mayor Tony Scully, Architect/Cartoonist Robert Arial, Tourism Partner Hope Cooper, Julie Putnam of the Kershaw County Historical Society, Camden City Planner Shawn Putnam, Camden Urban Forester Liz Gilland, City Tourism Development Director Suzi Sale, Luther, and SCDOT’s Tyler Clark, has met several times since October 2014.

One of the first tasks for the committee to accomplish was to determine some of the major defining aspects of Camden. Some of these factors include the horse culture, rich history, and simple elegance and it is in large part from these factors from where the design ideas originated, he said.

The plan focuses on signage from primary gateways into the city -- U.S. 521 at I-20, U.S. 1 at the Wateree River, and U.S. 1 near Camden Military Academy -- and works down to essentially street level directional and destination type signs. Attractive brick based signs at primary gateways are one idea. Another example suggested are banner type signs placed at such points as downtown intersections that would showcase businesses, restaurants, and other such places of interest. In keeping with the horse culture aspect, the banners could emulate designs incorporated into jockey colors, but using the city’s brand colors, Wimberly said.

While the overall response from council seemed positive, a few questions and comments were raised.

Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford said she believed signs for all major areas -- primary gateways and important destinations -- including city hall -- should all be brick based.

“City Hall, especially, is a major representation of the city,” she said. “If we do it for one, we should maintain uniformity and do it for all.”

Councilwoman Laurie Parks also had questions about existing signage, one example being signs placed by various civic organizations.

 “I know, for example, in Hilton Head they have placed those on the primary gateway signs,” she noted.

Mayor Tony Scully noted that sign clutter, while an issue, was necessarily a focal point of this particular project.

Councilman Jeffrey Graham asked about the possibility of placing signs on the Interstate off-ramps, noting that other cities, including Rock Hill, Orangeburg, and others have successfully done this and in fact, the city of Camden had initially discussed it with SCDOT.

“It can be done,” he said.

Wimberly noted that a major drawback is that the property is owned by SCDOT, which means DOT -- not the city -- would likely have more say in what can and cannot go there.

Luther said the feedback he has received from SCDOT regarding this issue has been somewhat lukewarm.

“They are of the opinion that signage is for Point ‘A’ to Point ‘B,’” Luther said. “They were not particularly interested in that.”

Nonetheless, Graham suggested that such a conversation be initiated and/or revisited.

Council will review the plan and make suggestions to the consultant. If all goes well, a final draft should be ready for council’s review within the next month.

(The online version of this story updates the proper job titles for Wade Luther and Liz Gilland.)

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