Government

New signs help visitors navigate MedQuarter, other parts of downtown Cedar Rapids

A sign on Mount Vernon Road points the way to different parts of central Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. The signs mark the way to various major attractions and districts in the city. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A sign on Mount Vernon Road points the way to different parts of central Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. The signs mark the way to various major attractions and districts in the city. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — New “wayfinding” signs in Cedar Rapids’ multiblock medical district known as the MedQuarter just north of the main part of downtown have been installed to help visitors navigate to medical centers and other destinations.

The tall, gray signs direct motorists to specific locations, such as Mercy Medical Center, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, St. Luke’s Hospital, Greene Square, Paramount Theatre and the Cedar Rapids Convention Center, as well as more general areas, such as downtown. They are topped with the MedQuarter logo, the Tree of Five Seasons logo, and an arch that looks like the architecture of the downtown bridges over the Cedar River.

“The end goal is commonality and a much more noticeable signage system,” said Phil Wasta, MedQuarter executive director. “The verbiage we used in planning this is so people could navigate to and among core districts.”

The 18 signs that went up in the MedQuarter this fall are part of the first phase of a multiyear effort to install 73 wayfinding signs in Czech Village, NewBo District, downtown and MedQuarter by the end of 2020. The city of Cedar Rapids is partnering with each district on the project.

Visitors to Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa on Wednesday had mixed opinions. Some said they hadn’t noticed the signs or didn’t find them useful.

“It’s gray neutral colors. It blends in, I can’t even see them,” said Ivan Hankins, who was in town from Waterloo for an appointment.

Hankins, though, said he is familiar with downtown Cedar Rapids, so he doesn’t need the directions. His wife, LaDawn Hankins, is not and said she would certainly use the signs now that she is aware of them.

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Marva Neighbor, of Marion, said between the quadrant system and mix of one-way and two-way street, downtown Cedar Rapids can be confusing, so she thinks the signs will help.

“It’s not very easy,” she said, noting she always follows the same route so she doesn’t get lost.

The MedQuarter was eager to begin the wayfinding project, which has been part of its strategic plan for years, and provided upfront funding to get it started. The city plans to reimburse the district at a later date.

The wayfinding project also includes plans for 25 pedestrian kiosks and additional boundary markers denoting districts for a total cost of $600,000, which includes the $150,000 for the MedQuarter phase. Working with the other districts to identify funding and grant opportunities is one of the priorities, said Matt Myers, a Cedar Rapids traffic engineer.

The signs help brand the districts and highlight some of the options in the different districts, he said. As new ones are installed, some of the older ones are being removed to help “unjunk” the rights of way in the downtown area, he said.

“It is calling attention to the destinations we have within the core districts,” Myers said. “The four core districts have numerous attractions. The signs are targeting people who are not necessarily residents of Cedar Rapids or do not have direct knowledge of destinations we have within the four areas.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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