Residents from Hillsdale Economic Development Corporation hope to place wayfinding signs in the City of Hillsdale to direct visitors to highlights around town, and the City Council expressed support for the idea at its meeting on Jan. 20.
These new signs would mirror the design of the blue and white “Welcome to Historic Hillsdale” signs that Hillsdale College paid to place at entrances to the city in 2016.
The purpose of the wayfinding signs project is to bring attention to businesses, parks, and schools along M‑99.
Dean Affholter, chairman of HEDC, is spearheading the project with fellow HEDC board member, Andrew Gelzer.
“We’re taking the idea of the signs that the college supported,” Affholter said. “By the time you drive through the whole city, you’ll know where everything is.”
Investing in wayfinding signs has been a topic of discussion in the council since 2006.
Four studies showed the signs would be beneficial for businesses and the city as a whole.
“The intent is to win the appetite of the causal drive-through people,” Affholter said. “We want them to know what Hillsdale is like and give them a flavor of our city.”
If approved, the proposal will be implemented in three phases. The total cost of the project is estimated at $125,500.
Councilman Matthew Bell raised a concern about the price of the signs.
“The initial cost seems a little high,” Bell said. “We’re already scraping to fund a third firetruck, so let’s try to get some private funds.”
City Manager David Mackie assured the council the city is looking for ways to pay for the initiative.
“We’ve been looking for grants to assist on this, and I think that we’ve found one that will provide some resources toward this project,” Mackie said. “That’s something we’ll be looking at submitting later this spring.”
Additionally, Affholter said he is planning to partner with local businesses, colleges, and Hillsdale Hospital for help in paying for advertisement of their services.
“The college has been very good about helping,” Affholter said. “We can go to the business district and have 50 of them give a couple of hundred bucks each.”
The Hillsdale Business Association, Hillsdale Board of Public Utilities, and the Tax Increment Finance Authority all support the project.
The signs will highlight Hillsdale College, Jackson College-LeTarte Center, Baw Beese Lake, the golf course, Hillsdale Hospital, and the business district.
Councilman Bill Zeiser suggested upgrading the signage.
“Has there been any consideration of incorporating the new Hillsdale logo into these signs?” Zeiser asked. “The lovely signs put up by the college were erected before we did a logo and this might be a way to reckon that.”
Affholter supported the idea.
“We have to sell our town,” Affholter said. “The signs will put Hillsdale in their mind and when they come back, they’ll know exactly where things are.”
The councilmembers thanked Affholter and Gelzer for taking the lead on the project and agreed to discuss the funding for the project in future meetings.