As city staff plots a comprehensive wayfinding system, downtown stakeholders are hoping for quick action.
Despite the wishes of the Downtown Improvement District, city officials are hesitant to commit to a sign arching over Main Street near U.S. 41, welcoming visitors to downtown Sarasota.
On Monday, the City Commission declined the DID’s request to move forward with an investment of up to $150,000 into a downtown gateway sign. The project would have been funded with DID revenues, generated via an additional tax on properties within the district.
DID Chairman Ron Soto argued the sign, modeled after similar signs along the bayfront, would effectively mark one of the primary entry points into downtown. He said other downtown districts, including the Rosemary District and Burns Court, have similar signs in place.
“The only place that doesn’t have a gateway sign welcoming them is downtown,” Soto said.
But city staff cautioned against moving forward with the DID’s proposal. Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said staff is in the middle of planning a more comprehensive approach to wayfinding throughout the city. He said the city could eventually incorporate the DID’s suggestion into its final plan, but for now, staff did not want to commit to that type of sign at just one location.
“I believe that we can probably do a better job — a more comprehensive job — of identifying where we need to have some type of identification signs,” Brown said. “This one approach may be limited.”
Soto and DID Operations Manager John Moran said downtown stakeholders have long pushed for a better wayfinding system — and so far, the city has been unable to produce one. Soto said wayfinding was one of the top priorities identified in a 2010 workshop held to identify priorities for improving downtown.
Any efforts to follow through on that priority have failed to come to fruition.
“We’re still, all these years later, looking to do wayfinding in downtown,” Soto said.
The commission directed staff to work with the DID to further investigate wayfinding options. Moran expressed a desire that the collaborative effort would be more productive than previous attempts to establish similar signage downtown.
“We’ve been working on this for a while, so I’m hoping we might move a little faster than we have in the last 10 years,” Moran said.