City and community leaders kicked off a three-day period of brainstorming and design for a citywide wayfinding project Tuesday night.
About 25 people attended the first of two public meetings to give planners input on a sign system to direct visitors, tourists and students through the city.
"Wayfinding is a complicated system that's more than just signs," said Jonathan Mugmon, the wayfinding studio leader for the consulting firm AECOM.
The city, Old Town Cape, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau are working together to implement at $126,000 Preserve America Grant. Part of the grant, $40,000, will fund a study on creating a directional sign system that planners hope will spur more economic development.
"As an economic tool, it's used to capture an audience," Mugmon said. Different districts will be designated to help businesses identify with an area of the city.
The city contracted with the Florida consulting firm Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin Inc. for the study. In December, the company incorporated into AECOM.
The National Park Service awarded the two-year grant to the city in October 2008. The grant includes $15,000 for the development of a downtown branding strategy, which will fit into the citywide brand. The city is pursuing other grants to fund the signs.
The sign plan will include a tiered strategy with the city's "super" destinations identified near the interstate. Those landmarks include Southeast Missouri State University and the River Campus. Once off the interstate, visitors will be directed to other "top" destinations like the Cape Girardeau Public Library, the Conservation Nature Center and the Osage Community Centre. Pedestrian signs will direct people to landmarks within walking distance.
The quantity of destinations included and characteristics of the signs will be carefully considered, Mugmon said.
"We need to show them something that's easy to digest and understand," he said.
Mugmon has been to Cape Girardeau twice to gather data. He and a design team arrived Monday. They met Tuesday with officials from Southeast, Saint Francis Medical Center and Southeast Missouri Hospital. At the evening meeting, attendees marked up maps and answered questions about which parts of the city should be highlighted.
The design team will work to create renderings of signs, which will be presented at the group's next meeting. The plan will include ideas for landscaping, hardscaping and public art. Four welcome areas will also be designed.
Mugmon said the signs will be designed to fit into the character of the city and will be easy to maintain or replace if there is a name change.
The second meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday in the First Presbyterian Church's fellowship hall.