The price tag is plunging for the Upper Perkiomen Valley Regional Planning Commission’s wayfinding and identity program.
As progress continues on the program, designed to clearly identify and market area events and points of interests, as well as brand the region, phase two has now fallen below initial estimates, officials said this week.
The first phase was originally pegged at $50,000 but $25,000 in grant funding has been provided by the PA Department of Conservation of Natural Resources’ Community Conservation Partnerships Program and the William Penn Foundation. The Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce also secured $12,500 in in-kind services.
That lowers that cost to $12,500. Contributions from the boroughs of Red Hill, Pennsburg and East Greenville have been received, ranging from $500 to $1,000. Hereford Township also contributed $500 to date.
The commission continues to raise funds through business and private partnerships and is soliciting contributions from the community and area businesses, commission officials said.
Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce (UPVCC) President Luanne Stauffer said Tuesday talks this week with the project consultant, Craig Berger, have been promising as the original cost for the project’s next phase has dropped several thousand.
That phase, which is slated to start this fall, was estimated at approximately $20,000. As it stands now, that figure could drop to around $10,000.
Stauffer said the commission plans to work with local students, possibly from the Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center, on that phase, which includes the creation of a prototype for wayfinding trailblazer signs.
The move should both involve students in a community project and give them valuable experience and training, officials said.
The commission is also soliciting contributions of materials to fabricate the signs for the second half of that phase.
In March the commission hired Calori & Vanden-Eynden of New York as the main design firm for the project.
Once the first two phases are complete, the municipalities and the chamber can pursue grants to purchase and install the signs in the final phase, Stauffer said. The phase will be completed at the pace each municipality sets for itself, she added, in order to allow for fundraising.
The wayfinding and identity program, which began in 2011, will include the installation of gateway signs into the Upper Perkiomen Valley as well as signs clearly identifying each borough and community attractions. It works hand-in-hand with the Upper Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce’s PerkUp outdoor recreation and tourism initiative.
The program is being pursued on the heels of the commission’s recently adopted regional comprehensive plan, said commission Chairman Josiah Pierson of East Greenville. That plan noted the significance of “attractive and informative signage within the Main Street corridors” as it plays an important role in economic revitalization. That plan also states the member municipalities would benefit from a pedestrian wayfinding sign system to direct people to downtown businesses and community events.
“Good signs play an important role in economic and community development,” echoed Kim Licata, board chair of the UPVCC and co-chair of PerkUp’s outdoor recreation and nature tourism initiative. “Signs can market events, identify points of interest, reinforce identity, introduce a location and brand a region. “The economic benefit of tourism should not be underestimated; but not every visitor is a tourist. Many visitors are attending weddings, sports events, special programs, library exhibits, etc.”
While the program has had its critics, commission member John Membrino of Hereford said he believes it’s valuable.
“I have always felt that Hereford Township was sort of misplaced as it is located in western Berks County, but we send our children to Upper Perkiomen schools. It became one of my missions to try and do a better job of assimilating Hereford into the Upper Perkiomen Valley. The wayfinding project is a perfect opportunity to do that.”
“At first I didn’t think the project was worthwhile but then I sat on regional planning and decided it makes sense for us,” agreed Upper Hanover commission member Steve Rothenberger, who said he experienced wayfinding’s merits on a recent trip to Jim Thorpe. “The more I learned the more I liked it.
“Signs are highly regulated and there’s a real science to effective signage,” he explained. “There’s a lot of homework involved in doing it right and understanding what will work best for our community. When things are not well-designed they will be ineffective and wasteful. However, a well-designed and thoughtful wayfinding program can have a wide-reaching, positive impact on […] the region.”