It’s been a long road fraught by controversy, numerous public meetings, an array of alternative designs (each with its own group of passionate advocates), and considerable debate on just what the thing should look like and how much it should cost. But with last year’s approval of the final design, all now appears on track for the new “Welcome to Edmonds” sign to begin greeting motorists later this year, according to Edmonds Deputy Director of Parks and Recreation Shannon Burley.
The original schedule called for installation last fall, but the job was delayed due to subsequent budget discussions reducing the original price tag of the project to $20,000.
“This meant we needed to look for ways to stay within this figure,” explained Burley. “We scrambled looking at how to do this, and one of the ways we’re making it happen is to use city crews to install the sign. The downside of this is that we need to fit it into the existing work schedule, so it won’t happen right away. Our crews are busiest in spring and summer, which is why we’re looking at late summer or early fall to install the new sign.”
Fabricating the sign itself is also costly, and more complicated than it might appear on the surface.
“It’s not like we can just hire a sign company to do it,” explained Clayton Moss, owner of Edmonds-based Forma Design, who submitted the winning design and is coordinating making the sign and maintaining quality control. “No one company can do it all. We have a metal fabricator doing the graphic panels and welding, another company specializing in hydrojet aluminum letters is doing the words, and yet another applies the reflective material. And of course, Andy Eccleshall is doing the mural artwork.”
Moss’s design was chosen after a very public process that comprised five Edmonds City Council committee meetings, much council discussion, two public open houses, and two online surveys with more than 1,800 responses.
At the outset replacing the old sign seemed like a simple process, but soon turned into anything but.
Back in July 2018 the city council was poised to approve a replacement for the badly deteriorated existing sign. In place for the past 40 years, it had become a familiar feature, welcoming motorists approaching downtown from SR 104. The new design would be in keeping with city design standards, employing clean lines and colors — but it represented a major departure from the old sign with its iconic images of ferry boats and gulls.
The design, along with its $40,000 price tag, was approved by the council’s Parks and Public Works Committee, who recommended adding it to the consent agenda for council approval the following week. Reported in My Edmonds News the next morning, what at first seemed like a routine council action set off a firestorm of public outcry.
Many found the new design sterile, uninviting, and not in keeping with Edmonds’ heritage, charm and ambiance. Defenders cited the new sign’s modern look and consistency with the City’s design standards as incorporated in the Edmonds Strategic Plan (see page 28).
This prompted the council to take a step back, with then-City Council President Mike Nelson pulling sign approval from the consent agenda and adding it as presentation and discussion item. The council ultimately opted to hit the pause button on the project to examine other options and gather additional input.
This led to a November public meeting and online poll to examine and collect input on a range of conceptual design approaches. This was followed in February with another public meeting and an online poll that presented several specific design proposals based on the input and recommendations collected from the November meeting — with citizens voting for their preferred alternative
The winner was the post and panel design created by Moss and featuring original artwork by Edmonds muralist Andy Eccleshall. It was presented to the council for approval at its May 7 meeting. Retaining elements of the much-loved original sign, it will greet new generations of Edmonds visitors for decades to come.
— By Larry Vogel