Gateway Identification

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Neighborhood ID

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Gateway Identification

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Neighborhood ID

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Community Beautification

Each month, hundreds of people come to Villisca to visit the Ax Murder House. The house is tucked away on an unassuming street near downtown and other attractions. At present, however, visitors generally stop at the House and then at the Casey’s on the edge of town, meaning local businesses don’t capture the full economic potential of these visits. To help overcome this, Villisca can add wayfinding signage and strategically place beautification elements, directing newcomers toward local businesses.

In 2009, CHK America commissioned a two year study to research and identify the psychology behind wayfinding strategies… “What we learned is that we’ve got 8 seconds to provide useful answers to a customer’s questions before they become frustrated and walk away.”

Source: Transit Talent

Villisca is strategically located off Highway 71, but there are only two small indicators of the exit along this route. This means that, likely, the only people stopping off on this exit are the people that have already decided to navigate there. Beautification elements and signage about the House and other local attractions and businesses would increase awareness about all that Villisca offers and help draw in new visitors, including those not planning to stop in town.

Though it is easy to write off wayfinding as a superficial investment, a 2008 study in Portland, Maine, showed that wayfinding signage helps visitors navigate physical spaces, increasing not only visitor counts, but the overall length of time visitors and residents alike spend in specific areas. The route suggested to visitors going to the Ax Murder House bypasses downtown Villisca entirely; signage along the route informing visitors of shopping, eating, or cultural opportunities will encourage visitors to branch out from their singular destination.

Similarly, beautification efforts signal to residents and visitors that the community is continually investing in itself. Villisca should use the beautification elements developed at the gateway throughout the community, creating a cohesive community theme. Native plants should be used to lower future landscaping costs and to help manage stormwater runoff.

ACTION STEPS

Design

WHAT

Work with landscape architect to develop designs

WHO

Steering committee

HOW

With support from the Southwest Iowa Planning Council (SWIPCO), retain a landscape architect to design the beautification and wayfinding strategy. Explore if the work can be completed in a pro bono manner. Alternatively, pursue a partnership with the University of Nebraska or Iowa State University and see if the college can focus on the beautification and wayfinding strategy in one of its studio courses. Be sure to engage the community in this process and have them help identify key points of interest to elevate as well as aesthetic preferences. As designs come together, work with landscape architect to determine fee for project.

WHEN

Q2 2019

Fund

WHAT

Secure funds

WHO

Steering committee, SWIPCO

HOW

Using the resources in Appendix XX, XX, and XX, begin pursuing funding opportunities. Explore the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Iowa Living Roadway Trust Fund (www.iowadot.gov/lrtf/resources) and opportunities through the Iowa West Foundation. Begin conversations with the funding agencies before the grant application period is open to understand how to best position Villisca to secure the funds. Consider hiring a professional grant writer or tapping into SWIPCO’s expertise in developing grant applications.

WHEN

Q4 2019

Plan

WHAT

Create implementation stages

WHO

Steering committee, SWIPCO, landscape architect

HOW

After finalizing design and understanding funding opportunities, define implementation phases for beatification and wayfinding strategy. Prioritize the Highway 71 gateway and wayfinding elements that will ensure people visit other destinations in addition to the House. Consider phasing as either location-by-location (e.g., gateway, 1st Street, 3rd Street, etc.)  or element-by-element (e.g., trees, lights, signage, etc.).

WHEN

Q2 2020

Develop

WHAT

Develop construction documents

WHO

Steering committee, SWIPCO, landscape architect

HOW

Make final design decisions and work with landscape architect to develop and release construction documents for bid. Review bids and select contractor. As construction begins, be sure to share updates on social media to generate excitement and share the progress underway in Villisca.

WHEN

Q4 2020