Evanston aldermen later this year will be asked to spend “less than $250,000” to have a consultant develop a comprehensive design plan for directional and informational signs around town.

Staff gave an update on the selection process to a joint meeting of the Economic Development Committee and the Transportation and Parking Committee Wednesday night.

The committees last spring approved seeking a consultant to do the job.

Parking Manager Rickey Voss told the committees Wednesday that 11 firms had responded to the city’s request for proposals on the project and that that after a review of the proposals five were brought in for interviews last month.

Voss said one firm, which he declined to name, “stood out as being exceptionally qualified.”

He said that firm agreed to exceed the city’s goals for minority, women and Evanston business subcontracting, brought its proposal in under the proposed $250,000 budget and offered broad national experience in developing sign programs for communities of different size across the country.

He said the firm also included an innovative plan to have high school students help with some of the project work — including mapping the location of existing signs.

City Planner Craig Sklenar said the design manual the consultants are to produce should be ready before the end of 2012, assuming the City Council approves the consultant’s contract at its December meeting.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she objected to the aldermen being given just one “recommended” proposal to review when voting on the project.

Community and Economic Development Director Steve Griffin responded that the staff could also provide proposals from the short list of five firms that made the initial cut.

Members of both committees have complained for years that Evanston lacks an attractive signage system to help direct residents and visitors to various destinations around the community.

Because of budget constraints, getting a new signage system completely installed across town is expected to take many years.

Related story

Are we there yet?

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Will they never stop ?

    It seems like the city can never cease to come up with ways to spend taxpayer money on things that any sane person would realized is fluff and not of any value/need.

  2. Sign Design Consultant

    Another consultant? Couldn't one creative staff member or lacking that,  a $25,000 consultant achieve the same goal?

  3. Am I Lost? Where’s the Sign?

    A comprehensive plan for directional signs?  I'd be all for it if it started with taking down every directional sign we already have and seeing how much pressure welled up from Evanstonians who were suddenly getting lost.  If there is public clamor for signs that give directions, then by all means, spend another quarter million on a plan.  Otherwise, save the money.

    Drive down any street in Evanston and count the signs.  Imagine which ones are not needed.  Do I really need a special set of signs to tell me where I'm riding on my bike?  Do I really need a mini-stop sign to tell me to stop for pedestrians at crosswalks?  Remind me of the last time a person said they wished Evanston had better signs pointing to the beaches or to Northwestern University.


  4. What world are our elected officials living in?

    We turn down restaurants, we want to legalize pot, and now we spend 250k to tell people which direction they can go? is it because they are going to be too high on the legal pot to know which way to go?

    Congratulations to the sales person that convinced our esteemed leaders that we need to spend 250k to know which way to turn. I need to hire that person!

  5. About time

    Driving east down Church st. past the high school and into downtown one passes close to a dozen signs of different colors, sizes and fonts.  None of which reinforce a sense of "community" or "destination" in any way, and that includes the basic "directional" signage.  The schools, neighborhood districts, everything thats posted and is meant to celebrate the community ends up reinforcing nothing and creates a hodgepodge of disconneted visuals.

    The community has created nothing less than visual litter and blight with no comprehensive design parameters for anything with everything being done on a job by job piecemeal basis authorized by whomever happens to be signing off on whatever is being presented by whomever is presenting something that day.

    This program should also apply towards all "streetscape" fixtures, trash cans, flower planters, bike racks, bus shelters, etc.  We have black bike racks next to aluminum racks next to brown garbage cans.  A long term plan like this should last for decades upon decades and gradully reinforce a sense of community on a cohesive visual level that goes well beyond just "directional" signage. 

    It is also a business development asset, communities with a well planned signage and streetscape plan help create a sense of "branded" destination and identity that helps entice companies to locate there,especially retail.  

    I believe there is direct payback on a program like this, both in visual environment and a reinforced sense of community, but more importantly, with tax dollars and jobs created by companies who understand how a well branded community helps grow their top line revenue.  IMO I believe it to be nothing less than contributing to postive economic development. if it is designed & implemented properly.    


    1. More of the soft-hearted “artsy” claptrap

      The author says: "…  None of which reinforce a sense of "community" or "destination" in any way… apply towards all "streetscape" fixtures, trash cans, flower planters, bike racks, bus shelters, etc.  We have black bike racks next to aluminum racks next to brown garbage cans.  A long term plan like this should last for decades upon decades and gradully reinforce a sense of community on a cohesive visual level that goes well beyond just "directional" signage…create a sense of "branded" destination and identity that helps entice companies to locate there,especially retail…. sense of community, but more importantly, with tax dollars and jobs created by companies who understand how a well branded community helps grow their top line revenue.  IMO I believe it to be nothing less than contributing to postive economic development. if it is designed & implemented properly."


      Evanston gave up the right to all this soft artsy "community spirit" long ago when the Council and residents demanded "everything I want, when I want it and where I want it" long ago.  We don't have money for these feel-good ideas.  We need things that are practical certainly not expensive.  Certainly there is someone in City Hall that already has the responsibility for any design that is needed—as part of their salary not hiring outside vendors.  The only "economic development will be to line the pockets of the vendors the Council selects.


      1. I disagree

        I agree that we need things that are practical and not expensive.  But the simple fact is signage and streetscape is and will continue to be placed and replaced everywhere for every reason. Garbage cans and bike racks will still be installed, signs will still be put up, things like this will always continue to happen and thats a simple fact of urban life, like it or not, call it artsy or not, it's a simple fact of reality.

        Creating a cohesive design template that guides all future signage and streetscape installations will slowly bring us to where we should have already been long ago.  So the next time the association of We Like Bicycles or whomever, wants to donate a couple bike racks in town, great, the next time the city contracts out and allows a company to build bus shelters with advertising, great, the next time a developer is required to put some streetscape in, great, the next time the schools want to put a permanent sign up celebrating their something or other, great,  but here are some specific guidelines that define color, style and construction to insure a cohesive look and avoid unnecessary visual blight. 

        Nobody said rip down and replace everything existing today.  Just guide what will be installed in the future, and lots of stuff will be installed, so that it helps create that soft hearted artsy stuff that defines and brands a community.   And no, I can't think of anyone at city hall qualified to do this, it is a professional field of expertise.

        As a business owner whenever I go anywhere I always look at the type of wayfinding that a community puts in place.  It's a telling clue as to whether that community understands and prioritizes business development, because at the heart of it that is exactly what this is about.  And there is nothing soft hearted when a corporation is deciding where to put a new store, so this is the type of thing that could help that decision and grow the tax base.   It has nothing to do with helping you, the resident, find the lakefront.


  6. The city needs to fix the signs they have

    Seems the the proliferation of signs has overcome the city's ability to manage them.  A couple of weeks ago on street cleaning day, I noticed that despite the loud warnings of tickets and tows broadcast at 8 am, there were still a number of cars parked on the street at 11 am, after the street cleaners had passed.   Because this has been a recurring issue, and trash and leaves have accumulated for months, I decided to call 311 and get connected to someone who could tell me why this has been going on.  Connected to the right person, I learned that because the city had not put up signs that said that towing is an option, they were unable to tow on my block; all they could do was ticket (of course they hadn't done this either).  When I inquired why the wrong signs had been up all year, and why nothing had been done about it, I was told, "I'll look in to it".

    1. Does anyone read the signs anyway ?

      The signs downtown about no bikes on sidewalks seem to either not be read or people ignore. Maybe try one BIG sign for a couple of days and see if students/others learn.

      Look at the bike traffic signs the city posted a few years ago.  Some pointed in the wrong direction [it took five phone calls before the officials could even see the error], some pointed to streets that took people out of their way and anyone knowing the destination would ignore.  Others like one south of NU points [or did point] to downtown Evanston—not NU.

      Whether we need new signs or not they should make sense, catch attention and be accurate.  Like laws if they are not noticed or enforced, they will soon be ignored and useless.

      Actually sounds more like the Council trying to 'just do something' to prove they serve a function.

  7. Can’t this kind of stuff wait?

    250K is a serious chunk of change that I can see a 1% (of the 8%) property tax increase funding. What is the rationale for why this is needed? If we wait 2-3 years to do this, what will be negatively impacted? What safety issues result from not doing this immediately?

    I am inclined to think nothing since it will take many years for this to be implemented. Shouldn't we put this at the bottom (or middle) of our to-do list and focus on the areas of significant need? Why does this city persist in spending our tax dollars on lower impact projects?

    We need much more energy on ways to bring in funding than to think of ways to spend OUR money. What are the long list of proposals for that? Alderpeople if you are ready this, please get off your butts and help bring in more business and economic opportunity into the city…please stop wasting your time trying to spend our hard earned dollars! 

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