Amherst moves ahead with designs for new welcome signs

  • Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman views Amherst’s 250th anniversary flag during a tour of Town Hall on his first day on the job last year. The town is moving ahead with plans to have welcome signs depicting this image. GAZETTE STAFF/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 04, 2017

AMHERST — At least one welcome sign could begin greeting visitors to downtown Amherst later this year, with additional signs helping people navigate their way through the town’s commercial and cultural district likely to be installed sometime in 2018.

The Select Board recently gave the go-ahead to Seth Gregory of Seth Gregory Design of Northampton to continue preliminary designs for the signs.

The simple signs would have “Amherst” written on both sides, possibly in embossed lettering, and use the two elements included in the town flag’s shield, a book representing education and three sheafs of wheat signifying agriculture. The signs would be made from corten steel and would feature a natural color palette.

Select Board member Connie Kruger, who along with member Jim Wald have been part of a wayfinding signs working group, said the board has no objections to the current designs.

“We liked it in concept,” Kruger said.

But the locations for the signs will need to be approved by the Select Board, which acts as the keeper of the public ways.

Gregory told the board that his work will include creating large welcome signs, which are expected to be placed at strategic points as people enter downtown Amherst. Attached to these will be directional panels, using various colors to guide people, such as maroon for the University of Massachusetts, purple for Amherst College, green for Hampshire College and brown for municipal locations.

There will also be stand-alone kiosk signs with directional panels. All signs, he said, will be “simple, durable and authentic.”

Planning Director Christine Brestrup said the signs aim to capture Amherst’s history and culture.

The town is paying Gregory $9,500 for the work, with the Amherst Business Improvement District covering half the cost.

Amherst BID Executive Director Sarah la Cour said she is optimistic that the first welcome sign will be up by the fall, depending on the costs to fabricate and installation. Those cost estimates are not yet available, Brestrup said.

Annual Town Meeting in 2018 could be asked to appropriate money for the full complement of signs, Brestrup said

Gregory is building on extensive work done in 2015 when Amherst received a $10,000 grant from the Downtown Initiative Program of the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

During that process, Mark Favermann of the Boston-based Favermann Design provided technical assistance and the Select Board approved signs that showed silhouettes of Town Hall and other downtown buildings rendered in a shade of burned orange, set against the green backdrop of the Holyoke Range and a pale blue sky. Each read either “Amherst” or “Welcome to Amherst” in white letters, and some include the names of sites ranging from Town Hall to the Jones Library.

But town officials never moved forward with these designs.

“We didn’t feel we quite had the design we wanted to move forward with,” Brestrup said.

Brestrup said Favermann’s work was a good start for Gregory, particularly with the concept of a “family” of signs.

La Cour said the BID is also ready to have cultural district signs installed after receiving the designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council last year.

“We do want to get the cultural district signs up as soon as possible,” la Cour said.

La Cour said the cultural district signs will be part of the wayfinding system, though the state mandates that these signs have the same appearance as ones in similar districts, such as Easthampton’s Cottage Street Cultural District and Northampton’s Paradise City Cultural District.

The new sign system will also work with the blue parking banners installed in 2016 that aim to make it easier for drivers to find public parking.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.