By STEVEN NALLEY
The Starkville Main Street Association plans to propose 17 wayfinding signs for the city of Starkville at the board of aldermen meeting March 6.
SMSA Manager Jennifer Gregory said the Starkville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau and the Starkville Beautification Committee would partially fund the $20,000 project if approved by the city. City staff have asked SMSA to delay its proposal until March, she said, because two other presentations are already on the city’s agenda for next Tuesday.
“Upon approval from (the board of aldermen), signs will be printed, poles will be fabricated and we would love for signs to be installed by the weekend of April 20 for (the) Cotton District Arts Festival and Super Bulldog Weekend,” Gregory said.
Gregory said SMSA will request in-kind services from the city to install the signs. Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas, also the board’s liaison to the beautification committee, said the in-kind services will likely equal a fraction of the signs’ cost.
“We don’t know yet what the cost will be, but it will be just pouring some concrete in place and actually setting the poles; It shouldn’t cost much at all,” Dumas said. “I would assume it would be unanimously supported.”
Dumas said the city needs the wayfinding signs because there are currently very few signs directing visitors from main highways to city landmarks or from one city landmark to others. Starkville Central Neighborhood Foundation-placed signs in historic neighborhoods are one of very few exceptions, he said.
“There’s a lot of traffic on campus that we’d like to get downtown and to other parts of town, and I think this is one of the ways to do it,” Dumas said.
Gregory said directing visitors to locations including the Oktibbeha County Heritage Museum, historic districts and downtown Starkville will further boost the city’s burgeoning tourism industry. The proposed sign system would initially focus on directing visitors downtown, she said, but it could eventually expand to include such other attractions as the Mississippi Horse Park.
“We have a great tourism economy in Starkville,” Gregory said. “We’ve seen by the numbers that tourism has grown by almost 25 percent over last two years. We really feel like we’re trying to make steps toward livability and beautification.”
Gregory said Jeremy Murdock chairs the SMSA design committee for the signs, and he has drafted multiple versions of the signs. The version she said is likely to go before the board features four panels stacked vertically directing people to different attractions, with a fifth panel displaying the sign’s location. The fifth panel also features a unique graphic for major Starkville districts; for instance, the Cotton District features a small picture of a cotton blossom.
“We feel like this will help brand our three districts: the Main Street District, the Cotton District and what we are calling the Russell Boulevard District,” Gregory said. “We’re working with developers to make Russell Street develop in a smart way. Branding those three districts will help people to understand (they are) the center of Starkville and really bring all three areas together as one downtown.”
Gregory said the directional panels will be removable and replaceable to redirect visitors to new attractions as they come, such as the Cotton Mill project’s convention center. She said some signs will also feature the “P” pictogram commonly used to indicate parking, with arrows to direct visitors to public parking places.
“One example is the pub parking lot behind the Starkville Cafe,” Gregory said. “Funds were raised for that lot by the former downtown business association through dues, but it is kept up by the city of Starkville, so it’s a public lot. It’s very underutilized and less than a block over from Main Street. We are working to form some public-private relationships with local churches and banks so we can potentially utilize the parking lots of churches and banks on weekends and evenings. Those agreements have not yet been reached, but the signage system will be such that it will be easy for us to affix the pictogram to point to available parking.”
Finally, Gregory said the current proposal calls for some signs to be removed and replaced with the newer ones. For instance, the proposal suggests removing one sign with a blue “H” pictogram directing people to the hospital and replacing it with a wayfinding sign which incorporates this “H” pictogram.