New signs will welcome, guide visitors in downtown Macon

Emanuel+Lechuga%2C+of+LS+Sanchez+Landscaping%2C+works+Wednesday+on+a+new+welcome+sign+at+the+corner+of+Poplar+and+Second+streets+in+downtown+Macon.

Liz Fabian

Emanuel Lechuga, of LS Sanchez Landscaping, works Wednesday on a new welcome sign at the corner of Poplar and Second streets in downtown Macon.

Navigating an unfamiliar community can be a frustrating experience for visitors.

Visit Macon executive director Gary Wheat knows how important directions are for newcomers.

“So much of our business is wayfinding for the community,” Wheat told the Visit Macon board late last year.

Soon, tourists and newcomers will be able to find their way through downtown Macon much easier. New colorful welcome signs and wayfinding cubes will be popping up across town through Downtown Challenge grant funding coordinated by the Community Foundation.

“Everybody loves that Macon is so welcoming,” landscape architect Wimberly Treadwell told the Downtown Macon Community Association when she briefed them on the project this spring.

Treadwell explained some fairly simple ways to enhance the visitor’s experience through new signage and updating older signs that are difficult to read.

She drew from Visit Macon’s color palette and graphic design of its “Soul lives here” campaign for this effort.

“We are thrilled to be partnered with you using your logo,” Treadwell told the Visit Macon  board in December. “We wanted it to be a community-wide program but it starts with downtown.”

Tuesday, work got underway on a cast stone and brick welcome sign in the park at the corner of Poplar and Second streets.

“You can stand on it, sit on it as a photo opportunity,” Treadwell explained of the durable design with selfies in mind.

Another welcome sign will be erected in the triangular patch of land across from Hay House near Spring Street and Georgia Avenue.

In the heart of downtown, four directional cubes that are 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide will have businesses listed on all sides.

“We think it’s vibrant. We think it will tell you there’s a lot going on and to see,” Treadwell said.

Wayfinding cubes will list downtown Macon businesses free of charge for the first year the signs are in place. (Screengrab from master signage plan)

The cubes will be placed in strategic “choke point” locations at First and Poplar near Just Tap’d, Third and Cherry streets, Second and Poplar outside Oliver’s and at the corner of Second and Cherry streets.

Flags posted on traffic light poles will indicate to visitors that they have arrived in downtown.

Macon is modeling its signage campaign after a similar program in Greenville, S.C., that charges businesses $100 per year to be included on the sign.

“The first time we’re not asking anyone to pay as we want the businesses to recognize the value in this,” Wimberly told Macon-Bibb County commissioners in January.

The cube signs are not designed for motorists, but pedestrians.

“When you come to downtown we really want you to park your car and get out. To direct people in vehicles now with people stopping in downtown, it’s a mess,” she said.

Treadwell envisions people stopping at the sign, seeing what Macon has to offer and then Googling a business or restaurant before making a decision where to go.

A little more than $60,000 in grants is paying for the project funded by the Peyton Anderson and Knight foundations through the Downtown Challenge grants to create a master plan for signage.

Several signs will be posted at some of the alleys, too.

NewTown Macon’s Emily Hopkins said the initial thought was to design a new logo to market  downtown but they realized they didn’t need to “muddy the waters” but try to partner with Visit Macon for a more uniform look.

The master signage plan draws on the color scheme of Visit Macon’s “Where Soul Lives” campaign. (Screengrab from master sign plan)

“Once everything gets installed, Visit Macon will take it over and maintain the signs,” Hopkins said.

The designs can be replicated outside downtown in the future if funding is available.

Signs on government buildings, such as the City Auditorium or Coliseum, could also draw from the master designs.

“We’ve talked about signage all over the community,” Commissioner Elaine Lucas said during the presentation. “I think it’s so important that we make sure that all areas of Macon-Bibb know they’re being considered.”

Hopkins hopes the signs will be in place by the end of the summer.

Steven Fulbright, Visit Macon’s tourism director, said the wayfinding signs will complement their marketing materials, such as billboards on Interstate 75..

“It definitely provides a cohesive experience for people we’re marketing to,” he said. “They see signs outside the community and when they come they see we’re really putting the same effort into welcoming them.”

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]