Waxhaw moves forward with wayfinding sign project

Concept art for Waxhaw wayfinding signage. Image courtesy of Waxhaw Town Council/Bizzell Design

Concept art for Waxhaw wayfinding signage. Image courtesy of Waxhaw Town Council/Bizzell Design

Waxhaw – Following suit with towns such as Weddington and Indian Trail, the Waxhaw Board of Commissioners is ready to move forward with a wayfinding signage project to help build on the town’s newly-branded image. 

Waxhaw’s Small Town Main Street Committee, born of a designation given by the North Carolina Department of Commerce in 2009, recently finished a proposal for which they partnered with Bizzell Design to create signs throughout town directing people to attractions in downtown and surrounding areas.

The four-person team, many of the members steeped in design experience, created the basis for the design project. They later brought on Bizzell Design to help with the details and to work with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to implement the project. 

Wayfinding signage is a way to help direct both vehicle and pedestrian traffic through a town while pointing out locations that may be of interest for visitors. While Waxhaw’s project will focus primarily on the downtown area, signs will also be placed further north on N.C. 16, that direct visitors to Cane Creek State Park, the Waxhaw Police Department and other locations of interest. 

Now that the board has approved the design project, Bizzell Design will move forward with applying for an encroachment agreement with the NCDOT, which would give them permission to place the signs near roads and sidewalks. They will simultaneously advertise the project for bids from contractors and this process may take between 90 and 120 days. Then, Bizzell Designs will drive stakes into the ground where each sign will be placed and the contractor will begin construction. 

Terry Settle, a member of the Small Town Main Street committee’s design team, said the project is important because of the way the town has developed over the last decade. She has heard stories of suburban sprawl killing the downtown area in towns similar to Waxhaw. 

“We really want to keep the downtown alive and vibrant, that’s a big goal,” said Settle. 

Buzz Bizzell, president of Bizzell Design, said he was impressed at the design experience of the committee design team and the thorough research they had already done on wayfinding signage before he was brought on in March of 2013. While they had done much of the design work, Bizzell helped with details such as what colors and fonts the NCDOT would accept on the signs and how to use reflective material to make signs more visible at night. 

Bizzell has recently worked on similar projects in Weddington, Matthews and Davidson, but said the Waxhaw project came with a few new challenges, due to the way the town has grown recently.

“Waxhaw was very unique in the way that the city has grown in a suburban way much faster than the downtown core,” said Bizzell. “The perception of where Waxhaw is and where the town borders are has changed.” 

Bizzell said one key to the project is to give visitors that small-town feel, even if they are seeing signs near town limits further away from downtown. He said the railroad theme used throughout the project is a key part of tying that feeling in. The railroad theme, based on one of Waxhaw’s tourist attractions, runs through every design aspect of the signs, from which colors were used to the traditional railroad rivets being placed in each sign. 

Gay Diller, chairperson of the Small Town Main Street committee, said the railroad theme kept the group focused when members started disagreeing on how the signs should be designed. She now feels that the entire project has come full circle and is pleased with the positive response the committee has gotten from town commissioners and other community members. 

“I’ve never been on a government committee that has accomplished so much. It’s refreshing because government committees can be frustrating,” Diller said. “What pleases me the most is that now people look at the prototype and nobody has anything negative to say. It’s always a great feeling to know that we nailed it.” 

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Ryan Pitkin

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