The project began two years ago when Nina Jacobs, the former director of the Jersey City Museum, and Connie Claman, vice president of finance and facilities at Liberty Science Center, decided that their institutions had inadequate signage for visitors entering Jersey City.
That thought laid the groundwork for Destination: Jersey City, a system of street signs modeled after many other cities.
The citywide signage program promises to deliver an efficient, aesthetic system for directing incoming vehicular traffic to the city's destinations. With tourism being a major part of the city's revenue stream, providing a clear-cut way of maneuvering around the city is critical, officials said.
The signs will list destinations such as the waterfront, the historic district, Liberty Science Center, St. Peter's College, the museum, and others.
Getting the project completed required a routine grant-writing process that commanded the support of several non-profit groups and government agencies. To their delight, Claman said, the idea was contagious. She recalls how the project gained enthusiasm and support from a host of city-based organizations, state agencies, and the general public. "Everybody said 'yes' immediately," Claman said.
Becoming a non-profit organization comprised of nine local organizations, Destination: Jersey City turned into a surrogate city planner. The group raised $35,000 to hire the Hillier Group, a design firm that had created the signage system in Newark, and a project manager, Suzann Anderson.
Anderson immediately set a timeline, budget, and process for completing the project. Originally projected to be $1.5 million, Anderson spent the majority of her time applying for grants from the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
When the new administration came into office, Destination: Jersey City brought the plans in and provided an overview of a project. According to Anderson, Mayor Glenn Cunningham liked the plan so much that he decided to expand its scope and add more districts. The final districts included Journal Square, McGinley Square, Westside, Liberty State Park, Waterfront Exchange Place, Waterfront Newport, The Heights, Greenville, and Historic Downtown. The add-ons raised the cost from $1.5 million to $2.3 million, all of which has been granted by the state Department of Transportation.
Once the project is complete, the city will be responsible for the maintenance of the 200 to 300 new signs. "The city is at a point in its development where there's enough visitors for a signage system like this," said Maryann Bucci-Carter, supervising planner. She added that the program beautifies the city as well by eliminating an excess of individual signs that provide the same information. For each sign that goes up, city planners predict that two can come down. "It eliminates sign pollution in a very classy way," Bucci-Carter said.
Standing 13 feet tall, each sign gives a clear direction for drivers approaching the city from entrances in all directions. Big white letters on top of the green background make the six-foot signs noticeable to people driving by them. Gateway entrances in the north, south, east and west welcome visitors with an official Jersey City sign that features a logo of the city designed by the Hillier Group. According to Anderson, the logo received high marks from city officials, and might be adopted as the official logo of Jersey City.
Mark Munley, director of Housing, Economic Development and Commerce, "loved the signage project, and talked about branding the city," Anderson said. "He wants to use it as the logo on city cars and all kinds of P.R. purposes."
As the project manager, Anderson was responsible for doing a comprehensive study of Jersey City's traffic and including that information in the numerous grant requests she wrote. "I was very familiar with Jersey City," Anderson said. "I knew a lot of the people in the non-profits involved."
In addition to the green signs with white lettering, the system includes a graphic representation of different districts on a burgundy background. Drawing from Jersey City's industrial past, graphic images of each district are displayed on a sign that is shaped like the back of a railroad train car.
"I'm sure everybody will be happy because we used everybody's ideas," Anderson said.
"It is one of the most enjoyable projects I've ever worked on," Claman said. Residents, city officials, and other institutions applauded the plan, according to Claman. She added that many people offered input, and their voices were heard. "It was an inclusive process."
Once enough signs have been put up for drivers, Destination: Jersey City intends to shift its focus to pedestrians and develop a separate system of signage for people walking in Jersey City. .