The Town of West Hartford is working with a consultant and has launched a survey to obtain public input on the wayfinding project.
By Ronni Newton
One of the projects that the town is undertaking with American Rescue Plan Act funding is development of a consistent town-wide approach to wayfinding – to help people not only find their destination easily and efficiently, but also encourage them to stay and enjoy West Hartford’s attractions and community assets – and public input is being sought as the initial phase of the work gets underway.
At a meeting of the Town Council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Committee (CPED) in November, Economic Development Coordinator Kristen Gorski shared that following an RFP process the town hired MERJE, a Pennsylvania-based consultant that has worked with more than 125 communities across the country, to assist with the wayfinding project.
The project goal will be to implement a comprehensive and consistent wayfinding approach, with unified branding, to serve residents, employees, and visitors, and to address the lack of visual clues about town sites and inconsistent or outdated signage. While the Town of West Hartford implemented a new logo in 2019, it is not currently used in all signage.
“We want to create a well-designed and consistent wayfinding signage system throughout town that includes pedestrian-scale signs, maps, and directional information for motorists,” Gorski said.
MERJE is a nationally-recognized firm and their response to the RFP was the most “forward thinking,” Gorski told CPED.
“We are excited to begin our wayfinding project which will improve signage to our tourism sites including museums, art galleries, parks and hiking trails, landmarks, and historic sites, as well as our business districts,” Mayor Shari Cantor said.
The first phase of the project involves information gathering, and the consultant is seeking feedback through an online survey. That survey can be accessed here.
“This project will allow us to make connections throughout our community. We would love to have your input so please respond to the survey,” said Cantor.
The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and seeks opinions about “hidden gems” of West Hartford, business districts that the respondent frequents, the best modes of transportation for visitors, and elements of town that should be highlighted. There are questions related to parking, and the survey and also requests feedback about digital tools to enhance the experience of visiting West Hartford.
There is the opportunity for comments in the survey as well.
The goal of the wayfinding effort “is to make it easy for visitors and residents to navigate around town, promote parking opportunities, encourage local shopping and dining, and market special events.”
“At its core, this is a public awareness project,” John Bosio, principal of MERJE, said in a statement. “It is about enhancing the visitor’s experience when they come to West Hartford. While the signage is the visual part of the project, it is not the only aspect. Our goal is to help visitors find their destinations easily so they begin their visit with a positive experience. This initial interaction will encourage them to stay longer and discover new reasons to come back for future visits with their friends and family.”
The West Hartford Town Council approved the allocation of $500,000 in ARPA funds for this project, which includes the consultant’s fee as well as program design and development, fabrication, and installation.
The development of directories and wayfaring signage is a separate but related initiative to the West Hartford Center Infrastructure Master Plan, a project that is currently underway as well. When implemented, the Master Plan will look to enhance the “sense of place” of the Center through elements such as branding, gateway treatments, and public art.
The wayfinding project is not just for the Center and Blue Back Square, however, but is town-wide.
More information about West Hartford’s wayfinding project can be found on the webpage on the town’s website.
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