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New signs uptown will help you find your way

Ever have trouble navigating uptown? Don't know how to find Discovery Place, Mint Museum of Craft + Design or the nearest light rail station?

City transportation planner Jim Kimbler – a relative newcomer himself – hopes other newcomers, visitors and the directionally-challenged are being set straight by new “wayfinding” signs uptown.

The city began putting up signs for pedestrians a few days before Charlotte's first light-rail line opened in November.

“We wanted to make sure we could direct pedestrians getting off light rail,” said Kimbler, the city's project manager for the wayfinding program. He moved here about three years ago from Orlando, Fla.

The first signs went up on streets, such as College, adjacent to the Lynx Blue line. A second set of signs was placed to direct people to uptown destinations, such as museums, libraries, The Square and the Charlotte Convention Center. Now 51 signs are up. At least another nine will go up by 2010 as new attractions, such as the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Wachovia's First Street Cultural Campus, open.

In addition to arrows pointing pedestrians to places to go, the signs include panels with uptown maps and information on local history and upcoming events. Attention area history buffs: You can see all 11 history panels in one place – the Levine Museum of the New South – from July 18 to Sept. 8.

The pedestrian signs are part of a larger program to increase signage throughout the center city. The bigger chunk of the project is aimed at signs directing motorists to destinations as well as parking. Those signs are projected to go up in 2009 and 2010. Total cost for all signs: $3.8 million, much of which is paid through a federal grant. The city's portion is $780,000.

Prior to this effort, Kimbler said, uptown signs were sparse and didn't contain much information. They mostly directed people to state routes and individual destinations, such as Bank of America Stadium, he said.

The new signs are “designed to get people out of their cars and on foot,” Kimbler said. “The overall goal is to clean up the air uptown and reduce miles vehicles drive around the block to find things.”

Wearing a shirt with the city's logo, Kimbler occasionally walks uptown and polls people on what they think of the signs.

“People love them,” he said. “They love the maps and say they really help them to get around.”