Downtown Framingham, Inc. business development intern Bobby Mitchell presented feedback he's received from a sample of businesses in the Central Business District about the current sign bylaw during the City Council's Economic Development Subcommittee meeting on Thursday, June 28. Framingham's City Council is working to revamp the bylaw to make it efficient and effective for small business owners to understand and apply.
Mitchell is currently a student in the Communication Arts Department at Framingham State University. Since joining DFI in May, he has canvassed 31 businesses downtown about their experience abiding by the current sign bylaw and with the City's sign and facade subsidy program.
City Councilors in attendance included Chairperson Mike Cannon, Cheryl Tully Stoll, Dennis Giombetti, Edgardo Torres, and Margareth Shepard.
DFI provided the Councilors with a packet that included pictures of buildings in the Central Business District that demonstrate different approaches to business signage. The Hemenway Block on Union Avenue, for example, shows uniform text on all business signs along with uniform sign backdrops. The absence of branding restricts the ability to create a memorable identity for each business to consumers. To compare, a photograph of the Amsden Building was included. The Amsden Building portrays businesses with unique sign branding and varied sign backdrops.
The Hemenway Block (Union Avenue)
The Amsden Building (Concord Street)
One example of how a lack of branding might impact a business is El Pikante Foods. The grocery store and take-out business has two locations in the Central Business District, one at 530 Waverly Street and one at 40 Union Avenue in the Hemenway Block. El Pikante recently installed a fresh new awning at its Waverly Street location that advertises its grocery and take-out food options.
El Pikante Foods 530 Waverly Street
This awning helps the store brand itself and establish an identity among its patrons and those who may see the store while driving, walking, or cycling near the Framingham Commuter Rail Station. However, Framingham's sign bylaw rules on uniformity influenced El Pikante's sign at 40 Union Avenue. This difference in signage between the two businesses could negatively impact the business, as it could reduce patrons' trust of the business if they are unable to tell if the two stores are affiliated.
El Pikante Foods 40 Union Avenue
The main concerns presented to the subcommittee from businesses in the Central Business District were focused on the accountability and enforcement of the Sign Bylaw. Businesses also expressed concern about consistency of the bylaw's interpretation between those who use the law, mainly business owners, and those who administer the law.
The City Council's Economic Development Subcommittee listened closely to the remarks, absorbed the packet, and indicated it would take into consideration testimony from the small businesses as it sought to adjust the sign bylaw.