Sign On or Sign Off: Questions About the Welcome Sign

Of all the approved DRI projects, the welcome sign has elicited the most debate and discussion so far, but some of the details have not quite been fully explored.

Funded by the city of Geneva’s $10 million DRI award, the proposed sign will bridge Exchange Street near the intersection of Exchange and Tillman. The sign, which must be tall enough to allow tractor trailers to pass beneath, is ostensibly expected to help the city’s effort to brand our downtown as a premier destination.

Proposed location and design of the “welcome sign”

But the sign is not without its detractors. Some say it marks a dividing line between our showcase downtown and the low-income neighborhoods of the north side. It’s been suggested that the $142,000 allocated for the sign would be better spent on the “Geneva Resiliency Center” project, or for a “rail trail” in Ward 6 with a footbridge and sign over Exchange, although convincing the state to reallocate the DRI funds will present a challenge.

Still, there are a couple of details related to the proposed project that should be considered, including the sign’s cost and location.

The Sign Will Cost City Taxpayers About $58,000

All projects approved for DRI funding require matching funds from other sources. None of the approved projects are funded solely with DRI money.

The welcome sign project will receive $142,000 of DRI funds. The total anticipated cost of the sign (from design to construction) is $200,000.

The city of Geneva will be required to provide an estimated $58,000 towards the total cost of the project.

Considering the cost to city taxpayers, there are important questions to be considered:

Is the sign worth $58,000 of city taxpayer dollars?

Should we be spending $58,000 on a sign that wasn’t considered a priority project until it was suggested by a consulting firm?

Is there any available data showing a marked improvement in numbers of visitors, dollars spent by visitors or other measurable benefits in other cities who have installed similar signs?

The Proposed Sign Excludes Several Downtown Businesses

DRI funds must be used on projects located roughly within the area designated as the Geneva Business Improvement District.

Geneva Business Improvement District Map

The proposed location for the sign is on Exchange Street near Lake and Tillman.

The north border of the Geneva Business Improvement District is at the corner of Exchange and Middle Street.

There are four restaurants, a hotel, a winery, and several retail businesses between the north downtown border of Middle Street and the proposed welcome sign location.

Considering the proposed location of the welcome sign, there are more questions:

Are those four restaurants and several other businesses considered part of the downtown business community?

Are visitors going to drive past those restaurants (The City Cafe’, Cosentino’s, El Morro and Hotel Exchange) because they are distracted by the huge “Downtown Geneva” sign a few hundreds yards in front of them?

Considering all property owners within the downtown Business Improvement District pay an additional tax (or “BID fee”) to support “services” for the downtown community, is it fair that those businesses won’t be considered part of “downtown” if the sign is built?

Sign On or Sign Off?

City officials have stated that the welcome sign project is not finalized. The location and design have yet to be determined and there may even be a possibility that the entire project could be called off.

It’s up to the people of Geneva to reflect on all aspects of the project and let City Council know what you think would be best for all of Geneva.


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