Metuchen planning to install signs that point the way


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Staff Writer

METUCHEN — By April 2017, pedestrians and motorists will gain a better sense of direction through the implementation of the Wayfinding and Signage program.

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Councilman Jay Muldoon said the program grew out of a recommendation in the Parking Authority Management plan a couple of years ago to create a system to direct visitors to parking facilities.

“We have more parking in Metuchen than most people realize, but it is difficult and confusing for people, especially [those] new to Metuchen, to find where it is,” he said, adding that the confusion creates congestion and contention for parking spots.

The Parking Authority moved forward to address the issue to create a Wayfinding and Signage program.

“Earlier this year the Parking Authority had an RFP (request for proposal) process to select a design agency to work with the Parking Authority in the borough to design that,” said Muldoon.

Sue Labouvie, president of Studio L’lmage Design, incorporated in California, has been working with the Parking Authority on the program. She presented the proposed plan to the Borough Council at a meeting on Oct. 17.

She said they have been working with a great group of organizations, which make up the Design Review Group for the program.

The organizations include the Metuchen Arts Council, Metuchen Development Commission, Borough Improvement League, Metuchen Historic Preservation Committee, Metuchen Parking Authority and the Borough Council.

The Design Review Group was set up to inform Studio L’Image about the historic background and current vision for growth and development in the borough.

The Review Group held a kickoff meeting in March, and the Parking Authority reviewed the plan in August.

Labouvie said the objective of the program was to create a unique sign program to reflect Metuchen’s historic, creative, tree-lined community.

“The wayfinding signage design came out of meetings and discussions with the Design Review Group on what visually best reflects Metuchen’s uniqueness and proud history as well as its vision for the future,” she said.

The design options explored included Brainy Borough/Wisdom, trees, tree canopy, Greenway, schools, books, writers, Victorian lampposts, architecture, train station, trains, arts, music and historic Main Street.

“With guidance, we worked into our designs something that would really be distinctive for Metuchen and represent its character,” said Labouvie. “What kept coming back to us were trees, tree canopy and the Greenway.”

One major focus of the design is a branding program that determines the “look and feel” of the wayfinding sign program which would convey Metuchen’s “personality” or sense of place.

“A major component of the branding program is the ‘Gateway’ sign, which [includes] the signs at the boundaries of Metuchen that announce to visitors that they have ‘arrived’ in Metuchen,” said Labouvie. “Many alternative designs for the Gateway sign were developed for review.”

Labouvie said some of the hardest things that they do is to create a visual design that incorporates the spirit and the way people have described their community in a set of sign types.

The sign types designed as part of the program include gateway signs, vehicular directional signs, pedestrian directional signs, orientation kiosks with maps (downtown and borough), parking identification signs and parking directional signs.

Working closely with the borough engineer, they have identified 42 locations for vehicular signs, a dozen pedestrian signs, six parking identification signs and eight gateway signs.

Four locations, including the train station and Pearl Street plaza, will include maps with the signs.

Labouvie said as part of the branding program, they have created a color palette for the signs. The blue color on the signs provides a familiar and calming effect with an emphasis on the train station, which is in a green color, she said.

“Not only are we trying to get people to walk around the borough, but we are trying to get people connected to public transportation,” she said.

Labouvie said they have discussed implementing the signs on the Victorian light poles in the downtown area.

She said they hope that the borough would take the color palette and use it on visitor information, brochures and other things, which would provide a continuity of the borough community.

“We will balance durability considerations with cost effectiveness,” she said. “It is possible that the gateway signs would require different materials from the post-mounted signs.”

Labouvie said the material options for the signs include high-pressure laminate, embedded image powder coat and direct printing on aluminum.

“We will refine costs for fabrication and implementation of the wayfinding program, prepare a final sign location plan, design intent drawing message inventory and move into implementation phase,” said Labouvie.

The plan is to finalize the design program by December, seek bids for the project in January 2017, begin fabrication and implementation in February and by April of next year, have the signs installed.

Council members asked about the lighting of the signs at night. Labouvie said they have been discussing an external light source.

“We can put [a] reflective for the vehicular [signs],” she said.

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