Sign designer says bigger is better

Robert Inwood of Mainstreet Consulting, the company that designed an array of signs to welcome visitors to Carson City, gave the Board of Supervisors on Thursday this piece of advice: "The bigger, the better."

This means signs that would be 24 feet high and 24 feet wide. The other option would be signs that are 16-by-16 feet.

The city is seeking $288,000 from the state to build the three welcome signs at its borders. It will cost the city $72,000, 20 percent of the $360,000 cost, to use the state's allocation for the signs.

The city should find out sometime next month whether Nevada Department of Transportation enhancement grant funds will be available, said Joe McCarthy, the city's development and redevelopment authority director.

"We've made the first cut," McCarthy said of the NDOT funding process.

Two of the three signs will be visible from the Carson City Freeway. One sign will be north of the city near the Washoe County line and the other south near the border with Douglas County, the third will sit along Highway 50 near the eastern border with Lyon County.

The shape is based on the former Carson City Mint's smokestacks, Inwood said. Signs will be primarily composed of sandstone similar to the mint and various other government and historic buildings.

Because of its imposing shape and size, 16 feet or 24 feet, it should prove a "very permanent, essentially vandal-proof, low-maintenance, 100-years kind of sign," Inwood said.

Still being determined are specific designs for stylized wayfarer signs throughout the city and location-reminder signs along the freeway, Inwood said.

The idea is not to create signs that are ignored. Signs that are too small, too drab, or too busy can cause people to "tune out," McCarthy said.

Good-looking signs that follow a consistent and easy-to-recognize design help the local economy and bring increases in tax dollars because people are more able to find museums, retailers, restaurants and other points of interest, such as parking, he said.

Too often, however, "that relationship is better understood by private sector than public sector," he said.

"We hope to consolidate into kind of a brand," said Mayor Marv Teixeira, of the search for an overall style to be apparent in all of the different signs.

The mayor also is concerned about the potential for billboards and other commercial signs along the freeway. Along with basic directional signs, he would only like to see signs along the freeway that point out how to get to points of interest in Carson City.

The city has committed $50 million to the freeway project, said Teixeira, who also mentioned his recent trip to Washington, D.C., to lobby for $2 million in federal money to continue landscaping.

"Are we going to allow that trash on the freeway?" he asked.

So far, no. A request by NDOT for a billboard site lost during construction of the freeway was denied by the planning commission in January. The billboard was to be on Highway 50 near Russell Way, pointing at the freeway, and substantially taller and larger than the city allows.

The city's planning division is reviewing the current signage rules in a variety of instances. How these rules would relate to billboards and other types of signs aimed at the freeway is one topic that will be examined, said Sean Foley, associate planner.

-- Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.


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