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New signs help Gainesville brand itself for visitors
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Motorists traveling into Gainesville along major thoroughfares and interstate exits may notice new Gainesville signs. The project was three years in the making. - photo by Scott Rogers

Arriving in Gainesville these days, you may have noticed large signs reaching high into the sky denoting the city’s limits along major thoroughfares and interstate exits.

The newly erected signs are part of a three-year project that began in 2015 that includes placing welcome signs, directional markers and points of interest maps at key locations throughout Gainesville.

“Gateway” and secondary signs have already been placed or will be placed at three exits along Interstate 985 (20,22 and 24), as well as along other major entrance corridors, such as Queen City Parkway, Dawsonville Highway, Jesse Jewell Parkway, Browns Bridge Road, Thompson Bridge Road and Cleveland Highway.

City officials said they chose the design for these “gateway” markers for both their functionality and artistic appeal. The sign design includes stone and wave-like graphics symbolizing Lake Lanier, with “Gainesville” inscribed from the bottom up.

“It’s very good for the recognition of our city,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “I’ve heard nothing but compliments.”

City officials are planning to install way-finding signage aimed at motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists alike, pointing both residents and visitors to various destinations in Gainesville, including tourist attractions, shopping centers, parks, historic districts and more.

City spokeswoman Catiel Felts said the Georgia Department of Transportation has asked the city to reduce the number of signs it initially proposed installing, but that the city remains committed to having them.

It’s important, Felts said, because some visitors traveling down Jesse Jewell Parkway and E.E. Butler Parkway might not even be aware that the downtown square is nearby.

Sky Design, a firm with offices in Atlanta and San Francisco, was hired to design the signs at a cost of $33,000. About $975,000 has been budgeted for the entire project, including installation.

City officials have said it’s important to brand the city in this way and build upon the tourism industry that annually generates an estimated economic impact of $9 million or more.

Moreover, Dunagan said, funding for the signage is taken not from property taxes, but rather a tax applied to hotel and motel stays, meaning some of the funding is coming directly from the very tourists and visitors the city hopes to continue attracting with the signage.  

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