Niagara Gazette

November 29, 2006

USA NIAGARA: Blue falls icons to disappear

New downtown signs would replace existing signs to that direct people to Niagara Falls

By Denise Jewell

Bright blue signs with white cascading lines that have directed tourists to Niagara Falls for years may soon be a thing of the past.

Consultants hired by the state’s USA Niagara Development Corp. to design a new system of downtown signs said Wednesday night that the blue falls icon signs would be replaced along with hundreds of others when a new “wayfinding” system is installed next spring.

Representatives from Russell Design of New York City told a group of community leaders Wednesday night that they are nearly done developing a sign system that would use bright colors and simple illustrations to direct tourists to major destinations.

USA Niagara is hoping to install the signs in the downtown area near the Niagara Falls State Park and the Seneca Niagara Casino by next spring.

“The idea here is to really celebrate and show off what’s available in the city of Niagara Falls,” said Tricia Solsaa, Russell’s director of environmental graphics.

Solsaa unveiled the latest version of the “wayfinding system” during a meeting with area stakeholders at the Conference Center Niagara Falls.

The signs are part of an estimated $3.4 million project to replace downtown signage and rebuild OId Falls Street. The majority of the project will be paid for through the local share of the slot machine revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino.

Construction has already started on a streetscape project to allow limited traffic back on Old Falls Street.

Paul Tronolone, USA Niagara’s senior project manager, said the agency hopes to install the new sign system in downtown areas by the next tourist season.

Signs for other areas of the city like Pine Avenue or Main Street are being designed, but would not be installed during this phase of the project.

While still in the planning stages, the new signage system would split the city’s tourist areas into six distinct districts that would each be represented by a color and an illustration. For example, the area closest to the Niagara Falls State Park would be represented by the color green and a picture of the falls. The downtown commercial areas that include the Rainbow Centre mall, Third Street and the Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel would be known as the Old Falls district and would be marked by bright orange.

New signs installed would be predominately gray with white type and a simple font, but would be topped with the color and illustration of each district.

Solsaa said the concept for the signs was to create hierarchy through the color system that would give tourists a sense of where they are and what attractions they would like to see.

“I think that when you want to keep the system clear and really get people to focus on navigating, less is better,” Solsaa said. “The district logo would always be front and center. It would identify where you are.”

Designers are also planning two stone gateway signs that would be placed near the intersection of the Robert Moses Parkway and John B. Daly Boulevard, as well as the Rainbow Bridge.

They are also developing information stations that would be made of an transparent plastic with a green tint to resemble the falls. The stations would have street maps and would list area attractions.

“What we were looking at doing with these is creating an area of refuge where people are interested in going under it,” Solsaa said. “I think kids are interested in exploring a space, rather than just another plaque.”