Herald-Whig

Wayfinding program points way forward in Quincy

Posted: Aug. 19, 2018 12:01 am

EVERYONE needs directions now and then, and Quincy's wayfinding program has helped travelers navigate downtown streets since the first markers went up in 2016.

Members of the Quincy City Council should vote to go forward with the next phase of the wayfinding effort on Monday. Anything less would throw the best laid plans by the District and the city badly off course.

Work on wayfinding landmarks to direct travelers and market the central business district started taking shape in 2014. An Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant, matched with funds from the downtown Tax Increment Finance District, paid for Selbert Perkins Designs to draft a wayfinding plan for Quincy.

John Lutz, a partner at SPD, said wayfinding systems make the experiences of visitors "more seamless and stress-free by directing them to destinations, shopping districts and parking." He said travelers in cities with wayfinding systems spend more time in downtown areas and boost purchases in retail, leisure and dining establishments.

Quincy has a growing and active downtown. During the summer, businesses see immense benefit from events such as Blues in the District and Q-Fest. These guides would help keep tourists and visitors in the area during those gatherings, creating revenue for both the business owners and the city. Outside of those events, these signs would help visitors and residents alike navigate to some of Quincy's best parks, shops and restaurants.

Aldermen would not break new ground by approving the next phase of this system. They approved the first round of wayfinding guides for city parking lots in 2016, paid from the TIF District budget that must be used for downtown. Those displays have helped direct drivers to city-owned lots and keep private lots cleared of vehicles.

In fact, aldermen approved a wayfinding system for Quincy Medical Group's campus earlier this month. That system will help guide patients around the campus and ensure the safety and health of visitors. Others have offered concerns about the cost of the displays.

Let's be clear, wayfinding landmarks are more than mere signs. They include poles, foundations, sidewalk replacement and panels that direct travelers and help brand the city and its attractions. They use unified color schemes that are attractive, distinctive and eye-catching. They will contribute to the culture and the appearance of the downtown. Furthermore, if they help people find their way to stores and restaurants, the economic contributions of the system will pay dividends that will more than cover the cost of the signs.

The Quincy Next Strategic Plan adopted by the City Council in March also calls for a wayfinding system. Strategic plan consultant Development Strategies, headquartered in St. Louis, reached the same conclusion as Selbert Perkins Designs: Wayfinding systems boost retail sales by helping people find destinations.

One of the goals of the Quincy Next Strategic Plan is to grow the city, increase the population, add jobs and boost the business climate. Wayfinding has helped other cities accomplish those goals.

Aldermen should support wayfinding and resident and aldermen alike should urge other City Council members to cast a vote in favor of erecting the next set of wayfinding monuments.