Last week, three sleek new signs popped up by storefronts on Shiloh Street in Mount Washington. They were placed there as part of a $25,000 initiative to enhance business traffic and development in the area, as facilitated by the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC).
Funding for the initiative came from a grant from the PNC Foundation in partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development (PPND).
Through its affiliation with these organizations, the MWCDC also received technical consultation and market analysis services as part of the Corridors of Retail Excellence (CORE) program, a highly competitive program into which only six LISC communities nationwide are accepted each award term.
Calling upon these resources, the MWCDC came up with a comprehensive package to promote business in Mount Washington, which includes both efforts to attract new customers to existing business and efforts to attract new businesses to the neighborhood.
Part of that package was the new signage that was unveiled in front of DeAndrea Designs, Micro Diner and Grandview Bakery last Wednesday morning. The signs are eye-catching, colorful and easy to understand, and were erected to direct attention, and business, to the street.
Each sign provides a textual and graphic cue indicating the nature of the business it adorns. The word “Jeweler” and the image of a ring are set against a vivid red backdrop on the tab-shaped sign above Vincent DeAndrea’s jewelry store, DeAndrea Designs, at 307 Shiloh Street.
At 221 Shiloh Street, an illustration of a place setting and the word “Diner” are featured on the bright yellow sign above Heather Nally’s eatery, Micro Diner. The playfully pink sign above Grandview Bakery, at 225 Shiloh Street, includes the word “Bakery” and the image of a large cupcake, depicting the type of treat consumers will find inside Vicki Pisowicz’s shop.
The designer behind the signs is MWCDC’s outreach and events coordinator, Christina Howell, who said her design was inspired by the signs that can be seen on the highway indicating amenities at upcoming exits.
“When you’re driving on the highway and you see a sign with a fork and spoon beside an exit number, you instantly register that there is a restaurant at that exit,” Ms. Howell explained. “We thought it would be a good idea to bring that concept to Mount Washington—a graphic that immediately captures your attention and makes it clear what you’ll find at a given location.
“The graphics we used for the signs were based off of open use images available online and are pretty close to being universal symbols, things that most people can readily understand even if they can’t read the words associated with the images.”
Mount Washington attracts tons of tourists each year, many of whom are international travelers to whom English is a foreign language, so having graphic signs is very important, Ms. Howell furthered.
Visitation patterns to Mount Washington were also a determining factor in the MWCDC’s decision to place the signs in the selected locations. The MWCDC reports Mount Washington receives approximately 1.5 million visitors each year, who ride the inclines to take in the Pittsburgh panorama; but, many of them hop back on the incline without patronizing local businesses during their sightseeing adventures.
Because of its proximity to the Monongahela Incline, Shiloh Street was determined the mixed-business corridor most visible to visitors, and, therefore, most in need of signage that would provide a point of access for potential patrons, Ms. Howell said. As per the particular businesses chosen to receive signs, she said the direct visibility of their locations from the busy intersections of Shiloh Street with Virginia and Grandview avenues was what sealed the deal.
The facts that the businesses are among the newest in the area and are privately owned were also considered.
“We wish we could have put up signs at every business,” commented Ms. Howell. “But that simply wasn’t feasible with our budget; so we made the decision with the best interests of all Shiloh Street businesses in mind.”
About the budget, Ms. Howell also said: “Twenty-five-thousand dollars was a conservative budget, given all the ways we wanted to boost business in the area… But, as usual, (our executive director) Jason Kambitsis really came through. He stretched every dollar as far as he could, and we accomplished way more than we’d initially thought possible.”
Among the other things accomplished with the $25,000 grant was a tri-fold community map, developed by 02 Digital Creative Agency. Ideal for visitors and residents alike, the map indexes Mount Washington businesses and pinpoints them on a comprehensive schematic.
The map has already been distributed to numerous area businesses and, according to Ms. Howell, will be further distributed over the coming weeks, to be made available in the majority of publicly accessible businesses and organizations throughout the Mount.
Additionally, Mr. Kambitsis and his crew used some of the funds to come up with a marketing kit for new and prospective businesses looking to take root in Mount Washington. The kit includes a set of index cards created by O2 Digital Creative Agency, which highlight business statistics, neighborhood history and demographic information that was compiled to help business-owners make important business decisions regarding a move to the area.
The same, and more, information is provided on a stick drive, also included in the kit, and the whole of materials is presented to fledgling businesses in an inscribed wooden box, handcrafted by a Pennsylvania Amish artist using repurposed wood. And while the box itself may have old-timey, nostalgic appeal on the outside, what’s inside is meant to help pave way to the future.
“The area has the potential to become a hip, modern-day village of sorts, and that is reflected in the appearance of the box,” Ms. Howell noted. “What’s reflected on the inside is careful market analysis and research, and the incorporation of technology… all for the purpose of making the transition of opening a new business in Mount Washington a smooth one.”
But putting a stick drive in the marketing kit is just one of the ways the MWCDC decided to use its grant money to fund business development through technology; and the kit, the signs and the map are but the smallest of the expenditures from the MWCDC’s $25,000 budget.
Ms. Howell said the app will offer users easy, on-the-go access to an interactive business directory and skyline feature, where they can tap a photo of the Mount Washington skyline to learn more about the business and organizational destinations at any occupied spot.
The iPhone app is still under development with Scenable, the firm which created a similar application for Oakland, and is slated for release in October. Also slated to debut sometime over the next few months, and funded through the initiative, is the MWCDC’s redesigned website (http://www.mwcdc.org), which Ms. Howell said will be revised to become less about the MWCDC as an organization and more about the Mount Washington community it serves.
While the iPhone app and new MWCDC website won’t be released for several weeks, Mount Washington enthusiasts have other MWCDC offerings to look forward to in the immediate future. The MWCDC will host two public events in September, as follows:
On Thursday, Sept. 19, directly before its regular monthly forum meeting, the MWCDC will hold a Community Wellness Forum, where fitness and physical health businesses in Mount Washington have been invited to give brief (less than five minute) presentations on the wellness goods and services they provide.
Approximately ten businesses have already committed to speak at the event, and Ms. Howell said she anticipates a few more to sign on before the forum takes place.
From 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 22, the MWCDC will celebrate the opening of recovered/improved trails along the Emerald View Park greenscape, where the Brazilian drum band, Timbeleza, will beat its drums as it accompanies hikers along the trail lines.
For more information on these, and other, upcoming MWCDC events, call 412-481-3220.