Facelift planned for first face of Nelson in new competition

The first thing visitors to Nelson will see is about to change.

A competition is being staged to re-design the welcome to Nelson signs at three ends of the city, after the beloved and “quirky” existing signs were deemed to be at the end of their lifespan.

The signs are in poor condition, noted a city staff report to council, and, although fixing them is not impossible, matching existing materials was considered to be too difficult.

As well, the city had received some money — a total of $ 350,000, a cost including the creation of a wayfinding strategy — from the province’s Tourism Dependent Communities Fund to update the three welcome signs.

But the competition — with the first deadline for submissions set at Aug. 13 — is more than just about a sign, it is about identity.

“Because the welcome to Nelson signs are the first impression of the city for both residents and visitors, it is important that they reflect our community,” noted city senior planner Sebastien Arcand in his report to council in mid -July.

The first step in the process to replace the signs has already begun, with the city gathering feedback on the project through a question posed via ThoughtExchange — in which 1,100 people participated — on “what are the most important things we should consider in exploring new designs for the ‘Welcome to Nelson’ signs?”

Those results were compiled and created the criteria for the design competition to help develop the new sign.

According to the ThoughtExchange survey, the vast majority of people wanted the city to maintain a similar design to what was existing, describing the current sign style as “iconic.”

As well, one of the major themes revealed in the survey was the desire to build the sign out of natural materials — wood, stones, etc. — with no plastic, with keeping a unique, quirky and creative look as one of the top considerations.

Ready, set, go

Using the template of the recent laneway housing design competition — which the city characterized as “successful” — the sign design competition will use the same process.

Components of the competition include: • timeframe: six months from call for submissions to final community vote; • who can apply: locals are encouraged but competition is open to people residing in Canada; • cost: up to $ 15,000 which includes stipends for participants advancing to final round of selection and prize money for top three designs; and • who will evaluate the designs: a design review panel will be formed. The panel will consist of local members representing various groups.

Source: City of Nelson

Phasing it in

That first phase would involve a conceptual design, including artist’s statement, and ensure the submission complies with eligibility requirements and design criteria.

The city-selected design review panel would review the designs and up to 10 designs would be shortlisted by an arms-length city design review panel and entered into phase two.

In the second phase shortlisted designers will submit detailed designs, including a list of materials, where it is sourced and estimated cost of construction. People who submit a complete design package will receive a $ 1,000 stipend.

Up to five designs enter into phase three and will be brought out into a community vote, with the top three awarded a cash prize. The results of the vote will be presented to council and the final approval will be given.

A request for proposals to implement the successful design will then be issued — including final plans, sourcing of materials, fabrication and installation — as the signs move toward construction.

Any changes to the sign will require approval from the Ministry of Transportation.

TORONTO STAR