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publius

downtown maps and signs

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The new downtown maps posted at strategic places downtown are very impressive... The pedestrian versions are always under glass, and coordinate in terms of area and terminology with the "car" signposts also placed strategically around the downtown area, with arrows pointing toward prominent destinations. It is my understanding from remembering past press accounts that the city paid an out-of-town firm to come up with the concept and design, that it was considerable money . The signs have a sort of old-timey look to them, consistent with much of the architecture and "red-brick" feel of downtown...

Each signpost names its own "area", and offers guidance to other "areas" or locations. The pedestrian version includes the familiar designation "you are here" so the person using it can orient him or herself.

Grdad provided a link to the online version which is a file approximately 18MB large and takes a good while to load, even at broadband speed. If you print it out, also be prepared for a very very long printing timeframe, as any printer will have a tough time negotiating the file size. Of course if reduced to an 8x11, some of the impressive resolution is lost, so the best version is still the online one or one you save as a file. Here is the link

http://www.ci.grand-rapids.mi.us/index.pl?binobjid=1603

Since it loads in segments I am assuming all the little parts of it are separate files which can be separately changed or updated as new buildings or neighborhood peculiarities change, etc. It has shadow effects for a three-dimensional quality, and the shadows load first, lol, since they are underneath of course... In its highest resolution, it even shows the various grand river dams, very impressive...

I do have some concerns about it though, which I will post in a further post so this one doesn't ramble on too long...

:)

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Ok, some of the concerns about the marketing and negotiating downtown with the new maps and signage...

I like the names they have chosen for the areas, since nothing turns you off as much as having downtown areas named ZONE1, ZONE2, or NE QUADRANT, SE QUADRANT, etc. The names they use are CENTER CITY, WESTSIDE, HILLSIDE, and HEARTSIDE. For each of the areas they actually have a little icon which retains the image theme throughout all signage instances. In this case the icons are, in the order of the areas above, the Calder, The gvsu tower, the facade of a heritage hill house with greek columns?--this one I don't quite understand, and lastly the van andel arena... Did I mention that each area is color coded, and that even the names of the buildings and destinations share a font color consistent with this color coding...

Now to my concerns about this scheme--

1) The Westside designation seems the most natural, since it is obviously the West Side of the river, and has the most historic integrity. The museums and gvsu are the prominent destinations here, and my only concern is that they should have extended it north to the historic sixth st bridge, since this is the obvious place to do a riverwalk circuit, and of course such an extension would include the fish ladder, which is mentioned in every visitor's guide--hello?

2) The Center City designation also seems quite logical, and shares a similar concern...The northern cutoff point seems to have been the freeway, and all locals know there is utter delight in the North Monroe corridor. it would have been so easy to extend this red area also to Newberry, so include the delightful Bridge Park as well as the Brassworks Building. I know the back side (bond street) is still somewhat embarassing for the visitor, but hey, at least the section along the river and monroe could easily have been included--its artsy hip, and restoration friendly--and they don't seem to be embarassed by including some pretty problematic sections on the south side to be described below, lol

3) Hillside. (sigh). Obviously there must have been some reluctance to have too many areas, and it does describe the physical aspect of the area pretty well. It is sort of a combination of pill hill and heritage hill, with the latter getting short shrift. The boundary is from division to prospect and fulton to the freeway, so we have most of pill hill included, but only four blocks (about 1/16th) of heritage hill. Here also, for anyone who knows the neighborhood, some of the inner streets (claremont?)have been omitted--quite startling for a map of such purported accuracy--evidently only commercial buildings and streets qualify for utter accuracy...

4) Heartside. This is the most problematic designation. For the visitor, I am sure the name sounds warm and fuzzy, but for locals, there are very few who would broaden Heartside to the entire south side from the river to prospect and fulton to wealthy... The Heartside Neighborhood Association itself only defines itself as about a fourth of this! Included in this broad swatch is also another 1/16 of the official heritage hill designation... While there are some definite attractions in this area (and hopefully with the redevelopment of the corridor down division/commerce/ionia continually improving, it will become even better) should we really be including such wonderful visitor sites as the CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS PUBLIC WORKS, CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS STOCKROOM, KENT COUNTY PUBLIC WORKS, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

I take it all in stride of course, and if it helps our urban life to rethink the downtown areas in this way and help our visitors get around, so much the better.

I think I am most offended though by the offhanded way the whole heritage hill historic disctrict has been treated in this scheme (casually distorted, ignored, and devalued). If someone were providing a downtown guide to San Francisco, do you think they would be distorting its historic downtown residential neighborhoods like this...

Well, food for thought, lol

:)

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Man, that file is a whopper!

My thoughts:

- The only thing I can fathom for why they went so far South on Market was to include the Amtrak Station?

- I also agree to exclude most of Heritage Hill is laughable. Not even Meyer May House?

- This map just goes to reinforce that we have too many light gray surface lots :(

- To not include Monroe North is a big mistake!

- What about Uptown and Easttown? Obviously you have to draw the line somewhere, but both of these areas are within walking/biking distance of downtown.

- My guess is that these were geared more toward Convention goers who typically travel only xxxx blocks from their hotel/convention center, and not to the more hip "adventure travelers".

Here is some background from GR Magazine (by our very own woz):

http://www.grmag.com/features/03-05/03-05.htm

$1.5 Mil. to have them made and installed,

Designed by Corbin Design,

They have also been installed in Traverse City, Royal Oak, Kalamazoo, Atlanta,

Indianapolis, and Los Angeles (among others)

http://www.gtherald.com/2003/dec/10cool.htm

http://www.corbindesign.com/

http://www.corbindesign.com/press/page_article_grmag.html

Edit: Sorry woz, I was just taking the ball and running with it :rolleyes:

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The Monroe North and Stockbridge areas are on some vehicular signs along Bridge Street and Monroe Avenue, even though they don't appear on the maps. So I guess if a conventioneer asks one of you for directions to Little Mexico or Founders, they'll be able to figure out what you're talking about when you say "Stockbridge" or "Monroe North."

Corbin told me that "ultimately, there will be another one (district) to the North some day." Expanding the system now that it's in place, however, is going to mean replacing some existing vehicular signs and all existing pedestrian maps. I don't see the city doing this. Besides, there are currently no destinations within Monroe North or Stockbridge which meet the project's criteria for inclusion in the system (X-number of people through the door annually -- I can't remember the exact number).

As for the names of the districts ... Corbin fought to keep HeartSide after talking with residents and business owners within that section of their new downtown system. I recall "Arena District" being on the table as an alternative suggested by the city. Even though the boundaries may not line up with the Heartside neighborhood, I think we're lucky to have that name in the system. And as it was explained to me, Corbin initially wanted to call HillSide "The Hill," but the city rightly stopped them because so many people refer to Heritage Hill as "The Hill." As such an artificial designation, HillSide remains problematic, but all in all, I'm convinced that this system is going to be a plus for the city.

-woz

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For as much as I love this City, which is a lot, I do not care to walk down the street and stare at a large, empty, green wall of a sign.

I really hope they utilize both sides of these signs. Soon please. Stand at Fulton/Division or Michigan/Monroe and you see nothing but empty, green walls.

Power to the Pedestrians!

Can someone please help me find-my-way?

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interesting further information appreciated, woz..

the very fact the pedestrian map is a computer file easily modified makes me think the city could easily make minor yearly adaptations and modifications in area and sites (without altering the car signs) and reprint 25 copies for reposting under the glass--it seems to have been designed this way, so they could at least add the small changes to northern monroe easily, then seven years later redefine to a separate region as it develops, etc.

Ditto to subtracting some of the absurd visitor sites in the Heartside designation, lol...

Here is a link to an official city map that was apparently used as the model for the corbin map, since it includes some identical distortions (same missing streets, and the idealized park loop off of fairview, for example)...

If you click for the pdf versions, you will see there are some identical layers to the corbin map, so the two files are obviously related...

http://www.grand-rapids.mi.us/205

This map has the nice virtue of providing any building's name if you hover your mouse over its number.. non-commercial structures and info are again treated much more casually and with less accuracy, lol

The corbin map's bias toward "number of bodies in the door" to determine "qualification" are of course understandable considering who is paying the bill, but it may also be a bit shortsighted toward helping a city market and develop its true urban character, image, consciousness, and attractiveness to many visitors, and I would hope our city leaders hopefully gave corbin a few other equally important criteria...

Often when I visit another city, interesting explorations (such as a river walk, a heritage hill loop, architectural delights, an urban river park, an artist colony, a local deli, etc) are much more important to my enjoyment and perceptions of urban quality and delight than the many official destinations, meetings, and sites I have to attend, and the overpriced restaurants typically recommended by the visitor's guide, etc.....

Like many jaded businessmen and conventioneers, I'm often looking for more of a "people's guide" to the real city and real people to help keep the sanitized chamber of commerce version in perspective, lol... I return to cities in which I find these type of delights...

:)

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Here's another great map I came accross--very current with all buildings well labelled and indexed--very accurate (note claremont is included)...

They have the GRAM designated with a number 40 and 40a for the new location, lol

http://www.gvmc.org/administration/documents/GRDowntown.pdf

Also, check out numbers 9 and 98, which really should be included on the Corbin West Side locations....

B)

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$1.5 Mil. to have them made and installed,

Designed by Corbin Design,

They have also been installed in Traverse City, Royal Oak, Kalamazoo, Atlanta,

Indianapolis, and Los Angeles (among others)

http://www.gtherald.com/2003/dec/10cool.htm

http://www.corbindesign.com/

http://www.corbindesign.com/press/page_article_grmag.html

Edit: Sorry woz, I was just taking the ball and running with it :rolleyes:

Not to sound too critical of these signs, but it seens the designers who created this system have a habit of "Copy and paste" for their signs. All of the signs had hthe same font, and basic design (sign on a pole with a medallion on top) with the poles and medallions interchangeable.

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Continuing further info to be gleaned from various downtown maps, here are two further interesting links, both fairly current:

1) Downtown parking map:

http://www.heartsidegr.com/Portals/_defaul...s/GRParking.pdf

2) Downtown dining map:

http://www.visitgrandrapids.org/images/diningmap.pdf

The latter is quite interesting, as it also shows clearly the greatest problem for the future growth of the convention trade. There are only four hotels, and only one is positioned in the mid-level budget category. The new Alticor hotel will not help this problem, and will further solidify an unfortunate developing monopoly on hotel spaces. Paralleling this are locked-in Alticor catering and banquet fees (I was surprised to discover recently the convention center REQUIRES Amway catering at prices which exceed luxury rates in even Chicago) I'll develop this thought in more detail in a separate thread in the future...

:wacko:

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Continuing further info to be gleaned from various downtown maps, here are two further interesting links, both fairly current:

1) Downtown parking map:

http://www.heartsidegr.com/Portals/_defaul...s/GRParking.pdf

2) Downtown dining map:

http://www.visitgrandrapids.org/images/diningmap.pdf

The latter is quite interesting, as it also shows clearly the greatest problem for the future growth of the convention trade. There are only four hotels, and only one is positioned in the mid-level budget category. The new Alticor hotel will not help this problem, and will further solidify an unfortunate developing monopoly on hotel spaces. Paralleling this are locked-in Alticor catering and banquet fees (I was surprised to discover recently the convention center REQUIRES Amway catering at prices which exceed luxury rates in even Chicago) I'll develop this thought in more detail in a separate thread in the future...

:wacko:

Very fascinating, publius! I was just made aware lately that the Convention Center is busing people out to Rivertown Crossings for a good time :blink: What is wrong with that picture.

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Continuing the saga of the maps..

Now it gets interesting, folks...

The official city of gr downtowngr.org site just uncovered by snoogit, differs in its definition of downtown area from the corbin maps, which I assume are of course also the official gr version of downtown, and in which $1.5 million have been invested including signage...

here is downtowngr.org's version:

http://www.downtowngr.org/DowntownAlliance_ServiceArea.pdf

defined area is very different

seems like some folks in gr government or the chamber or the downtown alliance are not at all on the same page about how to promote and market downtown gr..

:huh:

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I dont like looking at that map, it shows at least half our dt as surface parking, yuck :angry:

The DA map shown on downtowngr.org is most likely the boundaries of the special assessment distict, where the property owners pay more taxes to the extra services they receive such as street sweepers, snowmelt system, etc. Notice that the hospital doesn't look like it is included on the DA map. To my knowledge, the wayfinding system isn't tied to such rigid boundaries, since the wayfinding signs include heritage hill, stockbridge, etc, which are part of neither the DA nor the DDA.

And Gary, don't forget about all of the parking garages, so it could be more like 2/3 :P

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The DA map shown on downtowngr.org is most likely the boundaries of the special assessment distict, where the property owners pay more taxes to the extra services they receive such as street sweepers, snowmelt system, etc. Notice that the hospital doesn't look like it is included on the DA map.

That sound like a pretty reasonable explanation of their likely rationale andy...

:)

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That sound like a pretty reasonable explanation of their likely rationale andy...

Ya sounds like andy has it figured out.

Am I the only person on the planet that doesn

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Well, I don't mind the ramps as much as the surface lots, and it would be sweet to have a few ramps and in-fill all of the surface lots with buildings. The only ramps that are decent looking to me are the new ones that look like they have reguar windows (Monroe Ctr and Lyon/Pearl)

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There is a movement to revolutionize parking ramp design, which we have seen in the Monroe Center Ramp and the ramp across from the Van Andel Arena. The emphasis is on construction materials that compliment surrounding structures, designs that minimize the feeling of size, how the ground floor relates to the pedestrian, and the elimination of slanted walls on the outside as much as possible to "diminish" the feeling of a ramp, amongst other design considerations:

parking-monroe.jpg

parking-ottawa.jpg

The Ellis Ramp at Lyon & Monroe is another good example, but I couldn't find a link.

Some more parking ramp design philosophy:

http://www.wbdg.org/design/parking.php

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Cool! They do have a webcam on Spetrum Hospital. I'll have to see if I can track that one down and let you guys know ;)

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