Huntington Beach wants you to get there

HUNTINGTON BEACH – Surf City may be getting a makeover if an effort by Visit Huntington Beach gains traction.

Visit Huntington Beach, which promotes tourism and markets the city, has been meeting with community groups to share proposals for a variety of options for signs, information kiosks, technology and branding concepts aimed at not only helping direct visitors, but giving tourists and residents a deeper appreciation of the city.

The proposals were done through a $114,000 wayfinding study and master plan by Merje, an environmental design company, commissioned by Visit Huntington Beach.

John Bosio, a principal at the company, wrapped up a recent visit to Huntington Beach where he made presentations to 10 groups.

Merje has helped create wayfinding programs in 75 communities, from Savannah, Ga., to San Diego. The ideas behind wayfinding are relatively new, but anecdotal studies suggest that wayfinding signage can positively affect visitors’ perspectives of cities and even lead to longer stays, said Kelly Miller, president and CEO of visit Huntington Beach.

While Huntington Beach has no shortage of signs to direct visitors and residents, Bosio said there is little cohesiveness, planning or science behind the use and placement of the signs. The key to effective wayfinding, he said, is clear, concise directions at key junctions.

“We try to reduce visual clutter,” Bosio said.

As an example, Bosio pointed out a project in San Diego that his group is involved in where the number of signs have been cut in half, but the destinations to which visitors were led increased.

Bosio showed options for traffic and pedestrian signs and information kiosks with different themes. These ranged from classic heritage with a kind of surf roots feel, to more sophisticated modern looks. He says equipping kiosks with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology and developing appropriate apps would also be key.

Regardless of what the city decides to do with its street and pedestrian signs, Bosio said it should put a high priority on highlighting the historic pier. Despite its status as the most iconic and photographed landmark in the city, Bosio said the entrance to the pier needs to be dressed up with a big, bright, branding sign.

“The pier is the most valuable shot you have,” he said.

Better guidance for visitors and residents leads to increased business and sales, Miller said. If visitors can be directed to their destinations more quickly and efficiently, Miller said, “they’ll spend less time in the car and more time out and shopping.”

Bosio will take community reactions and create a master plan with budget estimates and priorities, which should be completed in June.

After that the plan would need to wend its way through various city, regional and state agencies for approval.

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