Project manager Stephen Sinclaire of Axia Creative, left, and Parksville director of engineering Vaughn Figueira look over materials describing the city’s proposed wayfinding project during a public information meeting at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre May 30, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville wayfinding meeting proves hard sell

Details of $168,000 project shared with small audience

The City of Parksville and the Parksville Downtown Business Association (PDBA) recently hosted a public information-sharing session for the three-year, $168,000 wayfinding project now underway following council’s approval.

Perhaps it could have benefited from some wayfinding info to direct residents to the meeting.

“Maybe it means we’re doing a good job of explaining everything about the wayfinding program,” PDBA executive director and local project lead Pamela Bottomley joked about the light turnout Tuesday at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre on May 30.

City staff and councillors, along with Bottomley and students from the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region consulting on the city’s master parks plan, outnumbered visitors to the hall at any given time. They were joined by Stephen Sinclaire of Axia Creative, which has contracted for the development and design of the wayfinding system for Parksville’s downtown core.

“What you see here are the design intent drawings,” said Sinclaire, project manager for Axia. “Now we’re getting into specifications. We told (Parksville) council we’d be willing to come at each stage to share information.”

The city and the PDBA had hoped to use the session to dispell misconceptions about wayfinding. During public budget deliberations, some critics suggested it is little more than a glorified — and expensive — set of signs for a community small enough for visitors to find what they need with little trouble.

But Bottomley and Sinclaire both pointed out that wayfinding systems are used worldwide, following established best practices for community branding, information sharing and directing of visitors.

And Bottomley played her trump card when she shared statistics from the City of Edmonton, which saw an 18 per cent spike in business activity following the installation of its own wayfinding system.

“It’s not new, and this is not a pilot,” said Bottomley. “It’s proven best practices. There’s a heirarchy to the system; it’s not just name places on signs.”

The recent information meeting featured a video loop highlighting examples of previous Axia projects and other wayfinding systems, in communities ranging in size from Gulf Shore to London, England. There were also conceptual drawings of the projected Parksville system, which will be rolled out in phases before completion in 2019.

The system is designed to guide visitors from their homes right through the doors of local businesses and to cultural features like Community Park, beginning with a web-based trip planning and info tool, right through welcome signs on approaches to town, directions to parking, then “finger posts” on walking routes with directions to clusters of businesses and other downtown features.

While signs will not highlight specific, individual businesses in the city core, kiosks will feature a QR code that pedestrians can scan to their phones or other personal devices, directing them to the PDBA’s website and its comprehensive maps of downtown businesses, Sinclaire said.

“Every part of this is designed to create a sense of place that adds to the city’s branding and to the visitor’s experience,” said Sinclaire.

And, while the wayfinding project currently in development covers only the downtown core bordered by McMillan Street, Jensen Avenue, McVickers Street to Community Park and the beach, it doesn’t have to stop there, said Bottomley.

When Coun. Mary Beil said she would like to see the wayfinding applied to other parts of the community, Bottomley smiled.

“It’s totally scaleable,” she said.