Kingsport to spend about $450,000 on 'wayfinding' signs

Matthew Lane • Dec 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport is planning to spend more than $450,000 on new signs to help visitors and tourists get around and visit the sights of the Model City.

Kingsport contracted with Michigan-based Corbin Design over a year ago to develop a comprehensive “wayfinding” and signage program to help direct motorists and pedestrians to various city destinations and amenities.

Corbin compiled a list of important and notable destinations, determined the types of signs needed (size, colors, information) and where best to place the new signs. The types of signs will include gateway signs (at the entrances to the city) trailblazer signs (destination and distance), vehicular signs (destinations) and pedestrian kiosks (map and destinations).

Destinations on the new signs will include Bays Mountain, City Hall, Allandale, MeadowView, Netherland Inn, Exchange Place, Tri-Cities Regional Airport, various sports facilities, and locations in the downtown area.

Judd Teague, director of the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the signs will be hunter green with gold lettering and include a crown logo. Teague said the signs are going to be aesthetically pleasing.

“The signs will be easier to read and consistent. The signs now are very cluttered,” he said. “They’re for visitors — to move visitors efficiently through Kingsport — and are more in line with a lot of communities, helping visitors move from Point A to Point B and direct them to locations and attractions.”

Kingsport and Corbin have determined the look of the signs, how many are needed, and where the signs will be located. The plan calls for approximately 130 new signs to be installed in three phases. The new signs will replace the small brown and green ones used throughout the city now.

Phase one consists of 44 signs and includes four gateway signs, 21 trailblazer signs, 15 vehicular signs and four pedestrian kiosks. Phase one will primarily include the central downtown area and the non-Tennessee Department of Transportation right of way areas of town.

The cost of phase one is projected to be $172,930. Teague said the city hopes to go out to bid on phase one after the first of the year.

New gateway signs will be installed at Stone Drive and John B. Dennis Highway (replacing the existing sign), Sullivan Street and Wilcox Drive, Netherland Inn Road and Stone Drive, Highway 36 out of Virginia, and at John B. Dennis and Wilcox.

Phase two calls for signs to be installed along the state and federal highways and includes 11 trailblazers and 61 vehicular signs. The estimated cost is $285,552. Phase three will consist of six vehicular signs, and the estimated cost has not been determined.

Funds to cover the cost of the signs will come from the city’s Visitors Enhancement Program — a fund established by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in 2007 to pay for a variety of tourism-related projects, with the money coming from a 2 percent increase to the city’s hotel/motel tax.

The VEP also covered Corbin’s $81,410 contract to develop the wayfinding program.

The program kicked off in October 2008 and was supposed to wrap up in June of this year, with the plans going to TDOT and the Federal Highway Administration for approval.

However, the approvals have been slow in coming.

“We were waiting on (the interpretations) to come back to us,” Teague said. “Where you can put the signs along the road, how tall the letters can be, and how big the sign has to be for the speed of the highway.”

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