Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Architect Shows Salemtown Concepts for Streetscape Signs

The Salemtown residents advising MDHA on a $580,000 block grant for the neighborhood finally got to see a glimpse of what their future street scape might look like last night. Designers and engineers on the streetscape team introduced their first concepts to the group, which has been meeting for over two years to formulate the ideas feeding those concepts.

Traffic calming elements for various streets and intersections were considered, but perhaps the most dramatic improvements discussed were various concepts for neighborhood identity Signs and new period-looking street signs. Below I posted pictures of each concept. In each sketch, the ID sign concept appears on the left with the complimentary street name sign on the right. The ID signs would be placed at various well-trafficked nodes around the neighborhood.

In my opinion this is the best design; its stipped-down, industrial look (square post, 10' tall, 4" wide, rust-colored) has a distinctly urban feel and its vertical orientation with the chunk-iron letters jutting laterally from the post have a unique look that captures the industrial past of our neighborhood. I asked the architect whether she knew of any other neighborhoods with signs like this in Nashville. She told us that she did not, which I think is a plus. I used to think that the East End wrought iron signs were the most attractive and unique neighborhood ID signs. After seeing this design, I think the East End would be unseated if we went in this direction. There is a great picture in the sketches of what the sign could look like at 5th and Hume. I could not reproduce it clearly, but it is attractive. More practically, of all of the designs we were shown last night this stands the least chance of being tagged with graffiti.

The virtue of this design is that it captures the vertical orientation in a neighborhood that does not spread out. The blue color is striking and the arched top is classy. The architect included a 3-dimensional cotton boll design at the top, harkening to Salemtown's past history history as a neighborhood of Warioto and Werthan Cotton Mill workers. That's a cool feature. What makes this design less attractive to me is that it seems to have a rather conventional, nearly suburban design. I've seen signs like it in lots of places (including shopping centers), and it doesn't have that industrial feel of the first one. Also, this sign is much more prone to getting tagged and vandalized than a more minimalist design. We asked the architect to bring back a variation of this that was more scaled back. The group also asked her to transpose the cotton boll on to the rust-color pole in the design above.

This design with a wrap-around name plate is shorter than the first two and it is obviously more horizontally and less vertically oriented. While it is more unconventional than my #2, its lack of that industrial, urban feel is its primary drawback in my mind. The cotton boll is present, but the scrolling effect doesn't really fit the feel of this downtown-proximate neighborhood, in my opinion. I like the design, just not enough in the context that it is intended to supplant either my #1 or my #2. I also have concerns that the sheet metal name plate would be readily vandalized.

This is another great design that I just don't see working in Salemtown. The banner look is classic. The banner-sign would be sheet metal and it would depict a old picture of Werthan above the Salemtown name. My only real objection to it is that it would be one of the more damaged of all the signs in a short period of time. I watch the teens around the neighborhood pass by traffic signs and jump up and slap them or bounce balls off of them as they walk by. The banner-sign looks too much like a hoops backboard for the kids to resist the temptation. It just doesn't fit practically, in my opinion. It also lacks that industrial feel.

The advisory group asked the architect to to come back with variations of the first two concepts for consideration at our December meeting.

Any thoughts on these sign concepts?


  1. Are the individual letters in option 1 substantial enough to prevent them from being broken off?

  2. I'd have to agree with you on option #1 being the best. Are there plans in the street scape plans to do anything about the sidewalks and/or power lines in Salemtown?

    One of the things that makes the Germantown section of 5th by the Germantown cafe so pretty is the trees and grass in between the sidewalk (cobblestone) and the street. It makes a nice buffer for pedestrian traffic and makes the area more charming IMO. Any such plans in the bloc grant for Salemtown?

  3. RE: Letters possibly being broken off--

    A variation of that question was asked at last night's meeting and the landscape architect responded that it would take an extraordinary level of force to pull them out. Their bases will be sunk into the pipe an inch and welded in place.

    That seems a better guarantee than the other signs on which the lettering is silk screened on. As far as I know, silk screen can be scratched off and defaced with any metal object.

  4. Powerlines and sidewalks dropped out early because of the expense, which would have busted the budget.

    Salemtown does not have the grass separation between sidewalks and streets that G-town does. One of the things that we are hoping is that Public Works will allow the designers to create "traffic bulbs" at strategic corners mainly to slow down vehicular traffic, but that would also allow for plantings. The problem with foliage is the issue of who is going to care for and maintain it. I assume that Germantown cares for their own, but they have a much stronger, wealthier association than Salemtown does.