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Do this, don’t do that: More input sought on Edmonds' SR 104 gateway sign


December 13, 2018

The public has already given City leaders plenty of opinions – some positive, but mostly negative – on a proposal to tear down the “Welcome to Downtown Edmonds” sign on SR 104 leading into Fifth Avenue South.

Now, the City is saying: Bring it on.

To be sure, the 40-year-old sign must go. As the Beacon has reported, it’s deteriorating rapidly.

Here’s the issue: The City wants a new sign that will complement its existing directional and so-called gateway signs, which welcome visitors to town along strategic arterial roads.

The most vocal opponents, including one resident and business owner in particular, say the replacement sign first proposed lacked soul and didn’t reflect the charm of Edmonds.

The City heard. So it did what most government leaders do – it formed a committee. (See the list at the end of story.)

Then it held a meeting, Nov. 29, with Parks and Rec director Carrie Hite and Edmonds’ Clayton Moss of Forma, a local graphics and graphics design company. Two more public meetings will be held in the Plaza Room, 650 Main St., at 6 p.m. Jan. 10 and 6 p.m. Feb. 11.

At the first meeting, there was lively discussion centered on how the “Welcome to Downtown Edmonds” sign should reflect Edmonds’ culture and community values while welcoming visitors that the downtown business sector wants to attract.

“Let’s engage the community,” Hite said. “Let’s get some ideas on the table and go with something else that everybody can like. The committee’s charge is for the City staff to develop the public process so that we can receive as much public input as we can as we go through the process of designing the new sign.”

The City Council will approve a final design.

On Nov. 29, Moss gathered a number of examples of welcome/gateway signs from various cities nationwide, and grouped them into categories: post and panel (the current sign in Edmonds); traditional monument; freeform monument; vertical/sculpture; and large-scale major gateway.

Moss spoke briefly about the characteristics of each type, including a few of the associated advantages and disadvantages. Participants reviewed the images and commented on the types they preferred, including ideas about theme, how the sign reflects the community, fonts/lettering, color schemes, materials used, and landscaping around the signs.

The audience included Mike McMurray, the Edmonds financial consultant behind the future Main Street Commons at Main Street and Sixth Avenue South. He is the city’s most vocal supporter of the existing sign, even having local artist Mack Benek designed a small-scale replica of the sign, which he intends to bring to the next public meeting.

Hite said the sign committee will consider all design options, include hybrids. That means even replacing the existing sign with a new one just like it.

“The second meeting goal is to narrow our options,” Hite said. “If the majority of people in the second meeting say, ‘No, we like the old sign,’ maybe we go that way.”

A final decision is expected at the third public meeting.

Although Hite said all options are being considered, she stressed at the meeting that the City is looking for signs to have a common identity, to avoid randomness, especially gateway signs. They are defined as one into an entry from one district or neighborhood to another.

“We’re talking about a brand,” she said. “When people see a sign, they’ll know they’re in Edmonds.”

The cost for the new SR 104 gateway sign was originally pegged at $40,000, then reduced to $35,000. According to the City’s 2019 budget, approved on Tuesday, that total now stands at $10,000, after a budget amendment from Council President Mike Nelson was approved.

Hite said that $10,000 would be workable if the SR 104 sign remains wood. But if another option is chosen, the budget might not be enough when taking in costs for fabrication, permitting and installation, adjustments to the site and landscaping.

“This has become a symbol of potential change in Edmonds,” Moss said, “and I think that’s why people are getting involved. But the sign shouldn’t express just one person’s opinion.”

Edmonds Gateway Sign committee

The process for designing Edmonds’ gateway signs began with the project advisory committee looking at all of the city’s existing signs. The committee helped shape the public process and recommended focusing on the SR 104 gateway sign.

Once that process is complete, consideration will be given to establishing some consistency for all gateway signs.

Here is the committee:

  • Mary Monroe, Economic Development Commission, tourism
  • Dan Robles, Planning Board, engineer
  • Tanya Sharp, Arts Commission, graphic design
  • Stephen Clifton, Cascadia Art Museum Board, economic development
  • Juliana Van Buskirk, Edward Jones, downtown business
  • Mark VonGunten, Edmonds Downtown Alliance, Ten Gun design
  • Richard Suico, Chamber board, Edmonds Library
  • Sharon Grader, Edmonds Arts Festival, artist
  • Roger Pence, neighborhood citizen, retired from Sound Transit
  • Lillyann Hendershot, Branding Iron downtown business, design/print
  • Sarah Wechsler, Edmonds-Woodway High School and Running Start Edmond Community College student.


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