Some don’t welcome plan to replace ‘beloved landmark’ sign in Edmonds

The existing Welcome to Downtown Edmonds sign is located in a small planted patch on the triangle of land owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, at the junction of SR 104 and 5th Avenue South. (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Change is tough. Especially in Edmonds, and even more so when the target is seen by many as an icon of community identity.

Latest case in point: The “Welcome to Downtown Edmonds” sign that has greeted motorists for four decades as they drive into downtown along Edmonds Way/State Route 104 — a gateway that many see as the city’s front door.

The sign sits at the junction of SR 104 and 5th Avenue South in a triangle of grass controlled by the Washington State Department of Transportation but maintained by the City of Edmonds. It is a familiar and sentimental sight to visitors and residents alike.

The old wooden sign is definitely showing its age, with cracked and peeling paint and wood weathered beyond repair. Repairing or replacing it has been on the city’s to-do list for more than a decade, but it kept getting pushed back in favor of higher priority projects, budget cutbacks and the various other vagaries faced by all municipalities as they try to strike the balance between worthy tasks, available labor and funds.

At last week’s Edmonds City Council meeting, the council’s Parks and Public Works committee approved a new replacement for the sign and forwarded it to the council consent agenda for approval at the Tuesday, July 17 council business meeting.

Word of this had no sooner hit the streets than fans of the existing sign began rallying to its defense. And it’s not just the design. Some also question the proposed $40,000 price tag.

Leading the charge to retain the current sign is long-time Edmonds resident Mike McMurray, who is developing the new Main Street Commons and 519 Main Street properties.

“The old sign is very nostalgic and creative,” McMurray said in an email to City of Edmonds Arts and Culture Manager Frances Chapin Wednesday. “In comparison, the new proposed signage is pretty basic and not very inspiring. The existing one has lots of character. The current sign is a beloved landmark in Edmonds and I can’t believe you’re replacing it with that basic thing.

The design for the new “Downtown Edmonds” sign, compared to the existing sign, as presented to the city council earlier this week.

“What does not represent our town more than the main signage leading into its Downtown Art district, cresting over the hill seeing Double Bluff of Whidbey Island?” he continued. “It’s a totally unique entrance to a totally unique town. The committee should have recognized this space as sacred and put more thought into signage and or replacing our already beloved sign.”

According to Chapin, the new sign was developed in accordance with a set of design standards recently adopted by a committee comprised of representatives from the City of Edmonds Arts Commission, Economic Development Commission and the Planning Board, along with city staff from Parks and Economic Development.

“People had complained about the hodge-podge of confusing, unreadable signs, and the committee attempted to address this by coming up with a consistent set of standards,” Chapin said.

The design standards are incorporated into the current Edmonds Strategic Plan, where they can be seen on page 28.

Page 28 in the city’s current strategic plan shows the design standards for signage.

The chosen design for the new sign — white-lettered “Downtown Edmonds” against a blue background — was one of several alternatives developed by Clayton Moss, owner of Edmonds-based design firm Forma. The firm was also involved in signage design for Hazel Miller Plaza and the Edmonds Historical Museum Plaza.

“Our goal was to have a clean, easy-to-read design that would be consistent with the several wayfinding signs going up throughout the city,” Chapin said. “It’s in a spot that people drive past at a pretty good clip, so they need to be able to see it clearly, absorb the message quickly, and get back to their driving. Much of the charm of the existing sign is lost when passing at 40 miles per hour.

The current wooden sign, Chapin said, is “really the kind of sign that should be placed somewhere where folks could park, examine it, interact with it, and maybe take pictures of their kids next to it.”

This image from the design document shows the details of the proposed sign.

Chapin also defended the $40,000 price tag, remarking that the new design is fabricated from aluminum and will incorporate solar-powered LED lighting (utility lines do not extend to the site). Custom foundations will be dug to support the sign, and more extensive landscaping “reflective of Edmonds beaches” will be added. She added that the curved design was intended to reflect the view across the Sound and the outline of Whidbey Island. (See the full design document here.)

“This is about what something like this should cost,” she said. “The price tag is reasonable.”

Downtown Edmonds Merchants Association (DEMA) President Tracy Felix also supports the new design. While acknowledging that McMurray’s points “are well made to preserve the nostalgic and creative aspect of our downtown,” Felix noted that the signage program “has been designed and implemented throughout Edmonds. It is established. The signage precedent has been set. ”

This dialogue has not been lost on the members of the Edmonds City Council. Council President Mike Nelson has pulled approval of the new gateway sign from next Tuesday’s consent agenda, and instead plans a full presentation and discussion.

“I changed the agenda because I want this item discussed before the full council so we can all provide input, hear from the good folks who worked on this sign design, and hear from the public,”  Nelson said in an email. “My main concerns are 1) is this really the best use of taxpayer dollars? and 2) does this design reflect the character of our city?”

Other councilmembers also weighed in via email on the issue.

“I have two major concerns,” said Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas. “I think that since this is our welcoming sign into Edmonds we need to have a more public input, and it seems to be very costly.”

Added Councilmember Dave Teitzel: “I believe it is important to have consistency in the appearance of city-related signage in Edmonds. From my perspective, the proposed sign at the confluence of SR 104 and 5th Avenue achieves visual consistency with other recently installed wayfinding signage in our city.

“However,” Teitzel added, “it is reasonable to consider citizen input on this issue balanced against the goal of signage consistency.  Additionally, I believe we should consider signage more broadly to include other areas of our city.  For instance, we should consider ‘Welcome to Edmonds’ signage at the Edmonds city limit on SR 104 near Lake Ballinger, at Perrinville, the Meadowdale area, etc. Frankly, in those areas it is difficult to discern where Lynnwood or Mountlake Terrace end and where Edmonds begins.”

As the latest chapter in Edmonds’ long tradition of balancing change with retaining pieces of local heritage, the debate over the “Welcome to Downtown Edmonds” sign follows a host of others that include Save our Log Cabin, Save the Gazebo and Save the Brackett’s Landing Whale sculpture. The Fifth and Main Gazebo may be gone, replaced by the Cedar Dreams Fountain, but the Log Cabin and Whale Sculpture (rescued literally on its way to the landfill) are still with us, ultimately saved by grassroots efforts.

The sign’s future hangs in the balance, and may well be decided at the July 17 City Council meeting.

— By Larry Vogel

35 Replies to “Some don’t welcome plan to replace ‘beloved landmark’ sign in Edmonds”

  1. On a semi-related note, what has happened to the “Service Clubs of Edmonds Welcome You” sign at Paradise Land on Edmonds Way? All of the service club plaques are gone.


  2. If you asked ten people, you would get ten different designs. This one has been through a rigorous design approval process and I respect that process. Like art, there will never be any design that everyone will like. Everyone has different taste. Personally, I trust Clayton Moss, a respected world class designer that Edmonds is very lucky to have.
    In regards to the old wood sign – sure, let’s save it! It is nostalgic. Let’s find it a new home where people can enjoy it and take family pics with it. Absolutely. That would be fun.


  3. The current sign is LEAPS & BOUNDS better~ “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The old sign feels more crafted historical & actually welcoming~ the new sign is cold & impersonal. Nothing special.


  4. The new sign design has the same look and feel of the new building architecture that appears to be popping up all over the place….you know, the architecture that looks like a container ship (brightly colored boxes). I sure hope that is not the future of Edmonds.


  5. It is too bad they couldn’t have combined the looks; the new one is modern (our downtown is quaint) if the new sign reflected a more gentle look to it maybe it would have accepted easier. My first response to it was not an open and receptive look like our old sign. But the old one could use some modernizing since all the signage is going that way. Just maybe not so “graphic” looking. Just one tax payers opinion (which I know matters little)


  6. How fitting that the new sign will be “fabricated from aluminum” ….. cold and soulless as opposed to the warmth of the current wooden sign. The City of Edmonds Arts Commission was a part of the design approval committee ??!! Disappointed.


  7. I want to thank MyEdmonds news for brining these issues to the public’s attention. I challenge Edmonds and it’s Leaders to ask the question do you love the new sign? If you don’t then why are we settling for it?I don’t want to hear every excuse under the sun, from sign conformity,HWY rules, thirst for quick replacement, long term cost anylisis, time spent.
    I expect more out of our most marque signage And most cherished Gateway. This is our chance Edmonds to establish a sign that will be around for the next 40 years and represent my family and yours for this generation of Edmonds Folk. If we are going to replace it, we should draw on our artist and most creative people in our town. I’m disappointed the leaders of art groups and such think a sign that has two tones of colors and does not even State “Welcome to Edmonds” meets the goal of representing our community. That sign could be at the gateway of any town in any place, Edmonds is not any Town and there people are not average, there extraordinary! Rise up Edmonds! I will see you all at City Council Tuesday 7pm to voice my concerns. Many Questions need to be answered.


  8. If you can’t read the Welcome to Downtown Edmonds sign then you should either slow down or stop driving! Even just Welcome to Edmonds is more friendly and with more character than the standard box looking proposal.


  9. Keep the friendly old sign. Interestingly the new metal sign, which has a cold industrial design, has the “Welcome to” omitted from it. Does that mean that it announces that you are entering Downtown, but you are no longer Welcomed? After a future visitor will have spend time in the Downtown Edmond’s area, it is doubtful they will leave thinking how wonderful that the signage was a consistent set of standards, instead of the character and charm or the area.


  10. I have voted to keep and save the current Edmonds sign. It reflects Edmonds past and present. Although we have kept up with the future on other things, we do not need a sign that is cold and uninviting. If the current sign cannot be repaired, then I vote we have one made that resembles it.
    I appreciate Matt Richardson’s offer to repair it. Maybe a trip to Home Depot needs to be scheduled.


  11. It seems obvious that if one looks down the road at the top of 5th it will become obvious that the density of building increases the further north one looks. This is a clear hint for anyone paying attention that downtown Edmonds is likely just ahead. Who needs a sign at all, let alone a $40,000 one? How about spending some money on storm sewers and road repair in other areas of the city?
    Nevertheless, kudos to Matt for offering his services at cost.


  12. I’m sure the $40,000 could be used for something much more important. Heading down 104 leads into Edmonds,new sign or not. Sidewalks are in dire need of repair as tree roots are causing danger of tripping.


  13. I believe we are on the second version of wayfinding signs since the initial ones were too small a font to read at any speed. Did we have to pay for that, or were they charged to the company who poorly designed them in the first place? I vote that we replace the current sign with a replica of the old one and i will head the fund raiser if need be to make it happen. Plastic and aluminium be damned!


    1. Ken Sandell I don’t know who you are, but I recognize the passion for our Town! My family and friends would more than help out with funding! This is why we live in this Town people like you among the many others posting here today! Offering solutions, and letting there opinions be heard. Willing to Do what it takes to keep Edmonds Character alive and identity recognizeable.
      Special Group of People live here!


  14. If this does not show that the Council is off track and not in tune with the quaint look and feel of Edmonds, I don’t know what does. Matt Richardson has made a sound offer, why not explore this repainting/refurbishment of the existing sign? Hello City Council of Edmonds, WA, are you listening to the citizens of your town that you represent? The new sign does not represent anything but overspending on a very unattractive, industrial sign. The large concrete cubes at the bottom are actually offensive. Please look at options suggested for refurbishment.


  15. That sign is Edmonds. I lived there for 30 years
    The changes I see on my yearly visit home breaks my heart
    What happen to quaint Edmonds. Are you going to spin out of control like the rest of the USA????
    You need to save the good thing about Edmonds that is why every one wanted to live in Edmonds.


  16. For a community that is trying to establish itself as a center for the arts, the proposed new sign looks like it came straight off a computer program.


  17. Would like to know who has decreed the old sign “beyond repair.”

    Quite the original and imaginative design for the proposed replacement. It will make the city seem like just another transit stop.


    1. There was a time 20 or 30 years ago that the old log cabin at 5th and Bell was labeled as beyond repair and was to be demolished/removed. A group of involved citizens turned that around. Surely we can figure out how to save a sign.

      We shouldn’t be looking for ways to spend money. We should be looking for ways to shave the budgets and attempt to lower taxes.


  18. This just seems like another blow to our beloved old signage. The centennial sign at Westgate just up and disappeared. Now the quaint welcome sign on 5th is on the chopping block, to be replaced with something that looks like it belongs in Shoreline. I can only assume the sign coming off the ferry is next. With each loss, it seems a little bit of what makes our city unique goes with it.


  19. I see offers here for repairing or building a new sign that is a replica of the old sign. The article notes that fixing the old sign has not been a priority for decades. Edmonds has many Eagle Scout projects that have been done with donated material and volunteer hours; saving the city thousands of dollars. A Scout working on his Eagle rank could team up with the volunteers that have commented here. The materials, including landscaping, could be donated, and the historic sign preserved.


  20. I’m out of town till Wednesday, so I will survey maybe by Friday. If the wood is dry, a lot can be done to mummify whats there. It looks like a new frame is in order. I used to be an avid Luthier, so moderately experienced. I can take point or help anyone else. Would be a good Boy Scout project too as suggested.


  21. Here’s a thought; we’ve already had more than one volunteer to perform the craftsmanship at cost.

    * What if we utilize the existing/willing citizen skills to replicate what we have in a larger, more radiant manner?

    * This city was built from artistry, logging, farming, fishing and native american wisdom shared with settlers. Why not solicit local loggers for a prime cut of wood at cost or as a donation?

    * Why not solicit the generous citizens of this city to weigh in on any additions to reflect modern Edmonds?

    * Why not organize a community event in which people wiling to volunteer needed skills to carve, paint, construct and deliver a new sign?

    * Given we now have a diversity council and changed Columbus day, has anyone approached our local tribes for input or even recognition upon a new sign? Let alone our wonderful local civic groups?

    Oh that’s right, it’s not city council’s money they are spending. Stupid me!!


  22. I just want to make a comment about Artist Clayton Moss, I want to personally say I love his work on Hazel Miller Plaza, and various other projects around Town that captures the warmness of this Town and it’s Identity. I’m sure it’s difficult for an Artist to meet the demands of Conformity and wanting everything to match, along with expectations set by the various groups involved .
    This project is not a reflection on him as an artist, its a reflection on the Process and the lack of Community input, and not recognizing Key Land marks in our City . We need to allow our local artist to express themselves not box them in with unrealistic expectations of Conformity! Much Respect Clayton!


  23. As a frequent visitor to Edmonds I wish to state these observations:
    1. “Welcome to…” is important. Like saying out loud “please” and “thank you”, “I love you” there is a graciousness that should be expressed, and never taken for granted.
    2. Some folks are commenting about the ferry and seagulls; as a visitor I have to say that’s something that has emotional attraction- to hear the seagulls, and to take a ferry ride is something unique that few towns have the privilege of offering. Why not “represent”?!
    3. 40K sounds accurate – design, fabrication, placement, AND lighting!
    4. May I suggest a melding of Mr. Moss’s Post and Panel design (just something about those rope and pilings!) with the printed font and icons (ferry, seagull, mountains & water) with color of Mr. Benek’s?

    I will be curious to see what Edmonds decides upon! Hopefully it will be lovely!


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