Weekly Feature

2014-08-06 / Front Page

Signage project aims to identify historic landmarks in village

by ANNA WALTERS Reporter

Haefner Haefner Mary Ellen Haefner has a goal to make Main Street in Williamsville more walkable and appealing, and is working to take the next step forward.

At a recent Village Board work session, Haefner presented her vision to officials. Her objective is to make the history of Williamsville more apparent on Main Street through contemporary modes of signage.

“She came up with the idea on her own and wanted to apply this to the village she loves; it’s just tremendous,” Williamsville Mayor Brian Kulpa said. “It’s something we see time and time again from business members to residents in the community who want to get involved.”

Through One Region Forward and participating in Champions for Change, Haefner has developed her engagement.

According to One Region Forward’s website, it is a collaborative effort promoting more sustainable forms of development, in both Erie and Niagara counties, involving housing, transportation, energy and land use.

“There’s something you want to solve or there’s something you want to improve,” said Haefner, a Williamsville resident. “But most of it goes to the sustainability, the walkability, the livability of communities, where people like where they live, they feel safe, they feel like they can get to the places they really want to go to,” she said.

Kulpa says it would be a great project to work with.

“We’re just kind of getting to know it; it sounds promising,” he said. “We really want to not just make [Main Street] pedestrian-accessible; we want to make it so people have an enjoyable walking experience.”

Kulpa says the signage can be something as simple as a printed sign or as dynamic as a glass-incased note.

“There are creative people around the village that we could do something both contemporary and something that would look pretty good,” Kulpa said. “The nice thing about the idea, you introduce an element that’s going to repeat itself, and it will help get away from the haphazard feel on Main Street and unify it,” Kulpa said.

Haefner, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, is flushing out a plan. She says there are questions that still have to be answered through community collaboration and a project team of stakeholders.

“Part of the model that we are using is a more collaborative, process-driven project model, so you get buy-in from the community, you get buy-in from partners. You say to folks, here’s what we think you want — do you want this,” she said.

“And they give you answers back.”

According to Haefner, the word “signage” probably makes people think of large metal signs that are costly.

“Part of what I want to be able to do with those that will be working with me is getting the word out that there are other ways to get the signage out,” she said. “The word signage — we’re going to tell you there are some newer definitions or subdefinitions.”

According to Haefner, her efforts should complement the Project Main Street plan. She says that as people are walking around they can learn about the history “whether they have lived here for 20 years or they’re visiting for a weekend.”

“While people are going to meet someone for lunch because they happen to work in an office in the village, they see something along the way that reminds them, oh, look at what we can be proud of. We have buildings that are 50, 60, 100 years old. Why are they here, and why did they come about?”

Haefner says she’s looking into how to tell people about a historic building so they become in-the-know and interested.

“Part of the universality is the reality that there are folks who can’t see like they may have before. Somebody might not be able to hear. English is not someone’s first language. So there’s certain things we’re going to hopefully incorporate so that someone coming from the city of Buffalo, from Toronto or from Berlin, Germany, they’ll still get it.

Haefner says walking is a part of a downtown village space.

“The village has a lot of history,” she said. “History is important. You don’t want to forget about it, but you want to present it in more contemporary terms.

“Because I do think that the way we communicate in our society has shifted over the last 50, 60 years. People have applications on phones, not everybody has the same reading level, people are used to very quick pieces of information, just to give them enough to become familiar with something.

“There’s a sense of pride that comes from the village of Williamsville.”

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