Oak Park overhauling signage

Village board approves $135,500 for wayfinding contract

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's been 13 years since the Oak Park updated its wayfinding signage system, which directs residents and tourists to the local attractions and destinations the village has to offer. 

But with new residential development on the rise and other amenities, such as the Divvy bike-sharing program coming to the village and the increasing challenge with downtown traffic and parking, local leaders are looking to spruce up signage around Oak Park.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $135,500 contract Monday night for the Watertown, Massachusetts-based Sasaki Associates Inc. to study the village's wayfinding system and provide recommendations for an update. Trustees Adam Salzman and Andrea Ott were not present for the vote.

The village put the contract out for public bid; Oak Park officials received 19 responses and interviewed six firms.

Sasaki Associates' creative director, Philip Barash, told trustees that Oak Park is at a "pivotal moment" with new development on the way, and signage should help tell the village's story as well as direct people from point A to point B.

Village planners noted that Oak Park's current wayfinding system, established in 2003, includes more than 300 monument signs, light pole signs and maps. 

According to a memo to trustees from the village's planning department, "The current system is static in nature and cannot be easily updated to include new community policies and initiatives such as Complete Streets [the village's policy for safer travel] and the Divvy Bike Program. 

Additionally, the current wayfinding system does not fully incorporate the village parking assets or mass transit opportunities."

Rhiannon Sinclair, an urban designer with Sasaki, told the board that wayfinding is not just about putting up signs but establishing a narrative for the village "or the experience of the people who visit, commute and work here and live here."

She said Sasaki would engage the community through online surveys and speaking with locals at events "to really engage the community in a process so that they also have a certain level of buy-in and they feel they were part of this project."

The project will be managed through the village's Community Design Commission and will receive input from the public art, historic preservation and transportation commissions. 

Village trustees encouraged the firm to explore opportunities throughout the village, including plans currently being considered for intersections and public spaces in and around the I-290 Expressway, which is expected to be reconstructed sometime in the next 10 years.

"It would make sense, I think, to coordinate whatever ideas you have about what the look of Oak Park should be, but also coordinate with the look of the Ike, so … you get that flow," Trustee Colette Lueck said. "The Ike conversations have been all about creating a sense of place."

Trustee Glenn Brewer encouraged the Sasaki team, however, to keep the village's budget in mind when developing their plan.

"I'm the kind of person that numbers tell a story, too," he said. 

He said planners should provide a range of options in terms of cost. 

Barash reminded trustees that the proposal that Sasaki brings forth will include a variety of options to consider and that nothing is binding. 

He added that Sasaki works with municipalities on a regular basis and look to complete projects in the most inexpensive way possible. 

The group is expected to return to the board in the next few months to present its findings.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Tad Wefel  

Posted: June 22nd, 2016 4:42 PM

Has there ever been a community in America that loved their signs as much as Oak Park? Seriously, doesn't Village Hall have better things to spend their time and money on? CAUTION: TAXPAYER MONEY WASTED AHEAD.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: June 21st, 2016 10:17 PM

The Oak Park Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $135,500 contract Monday night for the Watertown, Massachusetts-based Sasaki Associates Inc. to study the village's wayfinding system and provide recommendations FOR AN UPDATE. The last time the village had a wayfinding system update was 2013. Considering the horrid condition of our roads, and the blinders the village has on traffic safety, and a lack of demand from residents, maybe the board should consider putting the $135,500 to better use. Wayfinding is hardly a priority for a village with VERY tight budget.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: June 21st, 2016 4:05 PM

In this direction was once a place one could park, in that direction is the site of the future OPRF swimming pool, uh, wait, maybe it is in that other direction.......

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