As a society we often take for granted how complicated cities really are. Urban areas are complex systems of streets, buildings, green spaces, cultural institutions, businesses, and people. Visitors, new residents, and even lifelong community members often find themselves in situations where they are both struggling to get around a city and having difficulty understanding the physical and social fabric that makes it unique.
To address this often overlooked problem, our team is proposing a network of signage that will help residents and visitors alike understand one of the most interesting and diverse areas of the city: the South Division Corridor.
In the Fall of 2017 the City of Grand Rapids began the process of making an “Area Specific Plan” for the South Division Corridor. With the help of an appointed Steering Committee and a team of planning consultants, the intent of the South Division Corridor Plan is to create a framework for equitable future development by planting the seeds necessary to lift up existing businesses and residents, create new opportunities for a sustainable mix of housing, services, and institutions, and to raise overall quality of life.
The idea for the wayfinding project first came about in a July, 2018 community meeting with residents and stakeholders from the Corridor. Residents indicated to the planning team that they thought that this type of project could potentially be integrated with the existing neighborhood and could go a long way to enhancing the “sense of place” around South Division.
The South Division Corridor connects multiple neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, including Downtown, South Hills, South East, the Madison Area, Burton Heights, and Garfield Park. The three-mile stretch from Wealthy Street at the north to 28th at the south is home to a diverse mix of nationalities, races, and ethnic origins (including large Dutch American, African American, and Hispanic communities). Despite this, when walking or driving on South Division there is little indication that you are surrounded by such a diverse mix of cultures, and it is not clear what area you are in relative to other neighborhoods in and around Grand Rapids.
Other cities around the country have used creative, unique, and well-designed signage to create cultural destinations that are more navigable, useful, and understandable to residents and visitors alike. Our planning team hopes to make South Division feel distinctly unique from other seemingly similar places around the region, state, and nation.
Unique signage would:
- Simplify wayfinding and the usability of public transit in the area.
- Be easy to read and include maps, pictures, arrows and travel times to important points of interest.
- Act as gateways for individual neighborhoods along the corridor.
- Indicate the direction and distance to other important locations outside the corridor area.
- Emphasize and promote the bus system, and the Silver Line in particular.
- Highlight the history of different locations along the corridor.
- Unify the branding of the corridor to further position South Division as a destination for the region and beyond.
- Identify where nearby public and private amenities, such as parks and businesses, are located.
- Be bilingual to allow members of both the English and Spanish speaking communities to benefit from the program.
Other features of the signage could include:
- Technology that would be integrated into the project. For example, a program involving a smartphone app and scannable QR codes that would offer pertinent information.
- A design that could potentially be adapted as a model for other neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.
The goal of this proposal is to create signage that is well-designed and attractive, while promoting the rich culture and heritage of the community.