Riverside’s logo — the outline of the historic water tower springing from the tree tops with the word “Riverside” in all caps, marked by a looping R and a swooping S — is so familiar to residents that it’d seem strange to see it go away.

But by mid-2016, that’s exactly what’s going to happen as the village seeks to rebrand itself in an effort to ramp up marketing efforts for economic development and tourism and create a consistent look for village signage.

On Dec. 3, Riverside village trustees voted 5 to 0 to approve a $25,500 contract with Chicago-based Point B Communications to develop a brand strategy that includes a “positioning statement” and a new logo and style guide.

In addition, the contract calls for the development of wayfinding signage for the downtown business district. Installation of the signage, whose design will follow the new style and branding guidelines, is in the village’s 2016 operating budget and should be installed in conjunction with the East Burlington Street streetscape project.

“We’re hoping to have [the branding] done before summertime and incorporate those [guidelines] as much as we can,” said Sonya Abt, the village of Riverside’s director of community development.

Point B’s bid for the work was the lowest of three submitted to the village’s Economic Development Commission in November. The proposals submitted in November were the second pass for the village, which originally sought a greater scope of services.

Initially, the commission sought for the firms to provide, in addition to the branding elements, pricing for a marketing strategy and a plan for implementing that strategy. But proposals from four firms, including Point B ranged between $49,600 and $117,000.

Because the village’s board of trustees had budgeted just $20,000 for the entire package, officials scaled back the scope of services for 2016 to the creative branding elements and wayfinding signage design.

Abt confirmed that the Economic Development Commission will be seeking the balance of the funding for the marketing strategy and implementation plan in the village’s 2017 operating budget.

That additional work will end up costing the village an additional $20,000 to $30,000, based on Point B’s initial bid of $58,400 for the entire project. Despite the additional expense, Abt said getting the strategy and implementation plan completed is crucial.

“The Economic Development Commission and I feel it’s pretty important, with us having limited staff and resources, to have a strategy in place to direct staff in efforts to market the village,” Abt said. “That information is pretty vital.”

According to the proposal Point B Communications submitted in November, it will take about six weeks for the firm to develop both the branding elements and six weeks to complete the wayfinding signage design.

The brand positioning statement will result from information gathered by the firm from “key stakeholders” and will “establish an overarching guide for initiatives and communications when conveying the village’s image.”

“The brand positioning statement will encompass findings and represent what is best about the village of Riverside as a place to live, work and visit,” the proposal states.

Abt said that the branding elements would be incorporated into a new village website, which could be completed by the end of 2016. The village board has set aside $45,000 for website development in the 2016 budget and requests for proposals to develop a new website will be sent out early next year, Abt said.

Wayfinding signage, said Abt, would include directional signage, business directory signs at gateway locations such as the train station and green parking lot on East Burlington Street, as well signs directing motorists to municipal parking lots in the downtown area.

Logo, streetscape changes bound together, again

It's been so long since Riverside has looked at its "branding" that it's hard to imagine the village's logo being anything but the familiar, simple strokes outlining the water tower and trees.

In fact, the logo is 34 years old and was the product of a three person committee — Barbara Zidlicky, Barbara Lies and Edward P. Straka.  It was enshrined in the village code via ordinance back in 1981. The code mandates its use for "stationery, publications and other documents issued by this village."

Straka, an architect, was also responsible for the design of the present streetscape of the village's central business district, which was constructed in the mid-1980s.

But within a year, some Riverside Chamber of Commerce members were already griping about the design, particularly of the ground-level planting beds.

In July 1986, an article in the Landmark (then a monthly publication) headlined "Planters in business district/Ongoing controversy" included complaints about dirt being tracked into stores by people walking though the sparse beds.

Kathleen Snyder, whose Arcade Antiques business was located at the corner of East and Forest avenues at the time, called the condition of the planters "a civic and public disgrace."

Officials urged patience.

A little more than a decade later, in 1997, came the "Petunia War," where the colorful annual flowers were planted in the beds just in time for the Fourth of July. The action resulted in heated denouncements and allegations of official misconduct against then-Village President Paul Stack and Trustee Jerry Buttimer in both the press and at a public meeting of the village board.

The flowers were later pulled out and a year later officials and residents were again complaining about the scraggly appearance of the planting beds. In 2008, the village board approved a downtown landscape plan addressing the planters, whose plants still struggle to survive road salt scattered in them every winter and which can still be a hazard for anyone getting out of parked car.

In 2016, the village will embark on a complete renovation of the East Burlington Street streetscape, which will replace the ground-level planters with raised, self-irrigating beds.

At the same time, a marketing firm will be working with village officials to design a new Riverside logo. Thirty-five years is a pretty good run.

—Bob Uphues

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