After more than an hour of discussion Tuesday night, the Gulfport City Council agreed to accept idea and design submissions from artists for a proposed entryway sign at Clymer Park.
City Manager James O’Reilly will put out a call for artists to design a sign. Artists will be given 45 days to send in their ideas once the call is published.
At council members' request, O'Reilly said he would add a line explaining that Gulfport artists would be given priority. The submissions will be reviewed by the city council and possibly discussed at a future workshop.
Artists are to incorporate the following themes in the design as agreed upon by the Waterfront Redevelopment Advisory Board.
- The use of art
- The development of a theme that can be used throughout the Waterfront Redevelopment District
- The use of sailboats, particularly a regatta theme
- The use of “Gulfport Historic Waterfront”
The city council is taking over the design process because citizens and artists voiced their concerns after the unveiling of WRAB’s sign design at the May 26 city council workshop. The architectural drawing included a new sign structure about 20 feet in diameter featuring three sails labeled with the attractions of the city within a water fountain.
What does WRAB think?
During last night’s meeting, WRAB member Bill Esielionis said the all-volunteer board spend two years from discussions to hiring an architect to illustrate a sign concept. He said the current sign at Clymer Park is “a complete waste.”
“A sign that’s not seen is worthless. Gulfport could really use an iconic sign, whether it’s this exact one or not,” he said, referring to the WRAB's sign design.
WRAB members Bob Newcomb and Mike Baggs both agreed they are not disappointed in the city’s decision to start searching for a new design.
“We weren’t married to the plan at all. ... We all understood it would be changed,” Newcomb said.
Newcomb said a primary push for WRAB to make a decision and approve a concept design was because they thought they would lose the money available if they didn’t use it.
“We acted to save the money. Primarily, we were given reason to believe the money wouldn’t roll over the fiscal year,” he said.
Chairwoman Lori Rosso writes in response to last night's meeting, "I’m glad that the Gulfport Artists are engaging, that’s what we wanted from the start. We need signage, if it has the blessing of the art community, fabulous."
The Current Sign
Also during last night's meeting, Council member Sam Henderson brought up the idea of restoring the current sign and moving it to the north side of Gulfport Boulevard South so it could be seen by westbound traffic.
Vice Mayor David Hastings said that if he had to vote on a sign last night, "I would vote to keep the sign the way it is. ... We have other parts of the city that we want people to visit, other than the Waterfront Redevelopment District. ... That's only a small piece of Gulfport, that's not all Gulfport."
Artist Jonathan Schok said he was asked by Amy Oatley and Lynn DiVenuti with the Industrial Arts Center to come up with a new sign proposal. Schok presented several handouts to the council and said, "What we're trying to do here really is to create something that's not just branding for Gulfport, which is important; we want to create something that's exciting. What I'm offering here, I hope, is the first step to creating that atmosphere in Gulfport."
Resident Dan Stevens asked the council to consider spending the money to "build a permanent structure that goes over that road ... possibly have something that you absolutely can't miss."
Resident Lee Stapella said, "I'm opposed to the sign at this time. Why the rush to get a sign now? ... It would be best to apply to Main Street Florida." Stapella added that the money is better spent on picking up the phone to Main Street headquarters in Tallahassee and finding out the process. "They have the experts to help the city," Stapella said.
Resident Margarete Tober said, "I do think this should be a joint effort for our artist community and business community."
If you missed it:
The video from last night's city council meeting will be added to the city's Web site sometime today.