City leaders said they think a better system of signs throughout Cape Girardeau will highlight more of the town's assets to visitors and tourists.
A study on signs that direct city visitors will be the first part of an effort among several organizations to brand and market Cape Girardeau.
"It's an attempt to better direct people to where they want to go and where we want them to go," said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape.
Old Town Cape, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the city joined forces to implement a $126,000 Preserve America grant. Part of the grant, $40,000, will fund a study of the signs that direct visitors to tourist attractions throughout the city.
The city contracted with the Florida consulting firm Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin Inc. for the study. The firm will analyze Missouri laws, feedback from the community and how other towns have approached similar projects, Mills said.
The firm will be in Cape Girardeau for three days in January as part of the study, and the group is holding two meetings to gain community input. The first meeting on Jan. 12 will go over ideas for which sites will be featured and how the signs should be designed, Mills said. The second meeting on Jan. 14 will be a presentation of the study results. Both will be held in the First Presbyterian Church fellowship hall at 6 p.m.
The firm will also meet with community leaders throughout the three-day period and other individual meetings could be set up if needed, she said.
Mills said the firm's plan will outline a tiered strategy. Bigger sites will be listed on signs along the interstate. Other attractions will be on signs throughout town.
"You can't put everything on that first sign on the interstate," she said.
The two-year grant, which is from the National Park Service, was awarded to the city in October 2008. It includes other projects to boost the city's branding and marketing strategies. Part of the grant, $6,620, will fund 99 banner signs to highlight different downtown neighborhoods. The banners, which will be included in the study, will be installed within the next several months, Mills said.
Another $3,000 will fund informational reader boards along the riverfront and $15,000 will fund the development of a branding strategy through the same consulting firm, Mills said. Projects included in the grant will be implemented by October.
The city is pursuing other grants to fund visitor signs, said Sarah Wallace, city community planner. She said the the signs will be phased in over several years.
Mills said there have been other efforts to overhaul signs in recent years. By contracting a study and including several organizations, the current effort is more comprehensive, she said. The old signage will be re-evaluated.
"It's probably replacing what we have and building on it," Mills said.
Newer signs will help tourists and visitors navigate the city better, said Chuck Martin, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"If you make it easy for them, certainly it becomes part of an overall positive experience," Martin said.
Attractions that have opened within the past seven years, including the Red House Interpretive Center, the floodwall murals and the River Campus, will be incorporated into the strategy. Highlighting constant draws, like the Mississippi River, will also be important, he said.
"Many people don't live in an area where they have anything comparable," he said.
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