Fort Worth city and civic leaders are counting on a nearly $1 million signage system in downtown, the Cultural District and the Historic Stockyards to do a better job of getting visitors to their destinations.
Called wayfinding, a series of 125 signs will be installed in the next couple of months along public sidewalks near the city’s museums at the Will Rogers complex on the near west side, in the Historic Stockyards on the north side and throughout downtown.
“The goal of the minimal logical wayfinding system is to get people in cars to parking garages within the districts and back and forth between the districts if they’re traveling,” said Melissa Konur, director of planning for Downtown Fort Worth Inc., the member-funded nonprofit advocacy organization. “Once they’re out of their car, a pedestrian kiosk will orient them to major attractions and to the other destinations.”
This isn’t the first wayfinding system used in downtown Fort Worth. But what’s different this time are the pedestrian kiosks that show visitors where they are and orient them in relation to the Cultural District and the Stockyards. Likewise, signs in the Stockyards will help direct folks to downtown and the Cultural District.
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The project is being paid for with about $790,000 in city and federal funds, including some from the Federal Highway Administration, as well as about $240,000 that was raised by groups in the three districts. Downtown Fort Worth Inc. committed $156,620, but downtown is getting twice as many signs as the Stockyards and the Cultural District.
The three districts were chosen because they are the areas most visited by tourists.
“All three districts are spending a lot of time and energy recruiting new customers and trying to make the customer experience as simple and enjoyable as possible,” said Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc.
“Over the last couple of decades, there’s become this increased awareness of the interaction between the three districts, and quite frankly, the near south side,” Taft said. “So connecting and pointing to each other, and making that ease of visitor experience radiate beyond just the individual district, to get them to enjoy all the offerings, is important.”
Bob Jameson, president and CEO of the Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, agreed.
“I’m real excited about it,” Jameson said. “We give information to tourists and meeting planners that the Fort Worth entertainment districts are easy to get to, that they’re just minutes away from each other. This wayfinding system will have consistency from district to district. It’s going to help that message.”
Wayfinding gained popularity in the late 1980s in the wake of the American downtown renaissance, Taft said.
The new traffic signs will direct drivers to parking garages near major attractions and hotels. The kiosks show visitors what’s within a five-minute walking radius from where they’re standing. They also pinpoint where bikes that are part of the bike-sharing program are located and public transit stops.
The signs are color-coded. Downtown signs are blue, Stockyards signs are brown, and Cultural District signs are green.
Randy Hutcheson, manager of preservation and design in the city’s Planning and Development Department, said achieving a cowboys and culture theme for the signs, and which could equally satisfy representatives from the three districts, was not an easy task.
“The sign should stand out for a visitor, it should fall into the background for a local, and it should not compete with its surrounding,” Hutcheson said. “It was very tough, but I think we ended up with a really good sign.”
The city started this wayfinding system in late 2002, but changes in state and federal rules regulating such systems changed over the years, causing several delays. The signs had to be reviewed at those levels, which was time-consuming. At one point, the Texas Department of Transportation rejected a design.
Part of the money was also used to develop a website to help downtown visitors find parking. That website, www.fortworthparking.com, has been running for nearly a decade. The website is now administered under a different program. It averages about 5,000 hits a month.
By late 2010, the city hired the consultant Corbin Design to design the signs and program. It has done numerous downtown wayfinding systems, including St. Louis, Calgary, Los Angeles, Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta.
In May 2014, the city hired Bunting Graphics to make and install the signs. Bunting made all the signs used in AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Of the signs, 69 are going up downtown, 33 in the Cultural District and 23 in the Stockyards.
The signs will sit on break-away footers, so should a car hit one, the sign shears off at the base and falls over.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727