The Belleville Downtown Development Authority is looking into what it would take to turn one of Chesley Odom’s dreams into reality.
In the spring of 2001, acclaimed local designer Chesley Odom drew a rendering for an elegant entrance sign to the city. He died before he could see the sign taken seriously as a project.
But, recently the DDA agreed something like Odom’s sign would be a good front door to the city’s new Main Street and streetscape.
At its Dec. 15 meeting, the DDA heard a report on what it would take to build the sign and then unanimously voted to send the proposal to the Streetscape Committee for study and a recommendation.
Dave Vallier of Spicer Group engineers had been asked to look into creating a sign out of Odom’s rendering. In the past, it was estimated that the sign would take about $80,000 to build.
There were no specifications, other than Odom’s drawing and notes, so they asked Vallier to help.
Vallier looked into it and estimated a concrete/brick/steel version would cost about $40,000, including the four lights that would shine up on it and the electrical wiring.
The DDA had also asked him to look into a Styrofoam version, which would be textured “to look like whatever you wanted it to look like” with a skin over the foam, Vallier said. This sign would have a seven-year warranty and cost about $24,000.
DDA member Jim Higgerson had suggested investigating the foam version, but agreed it was not a good idea when he saw the size of the structure.
“It could chip. The stucco could come off. I’ll admit, it is not as durable,” Higgerson said.
DDA member Mike Colletta said the brick would maintain its looks longer than the foam.
There was light-hearted talk about how the heavier sign would keep someone from driving into the lake, but the Styrofoam sign would crumble and allow the vehicle to drive into the water.
Odom’s notes said the sign would have a stone base with stone planters, stone balls and caps with brick detail to match his bridge design, and metal letters with special non-rusting powder coating.
The words would say, “Welcome to Belleville, Home of the National Strawberry Festival.”
Vallier said the version they are presenting would have a concrete wall all around and 42” into the ground, a secondary planter wall, two columns similar to the bridge (concrete with brick or, maybe, stone to match the streetscape columns).
The “Belleville” would be 3/8” steel plate, powder coated, and the “Welcome to” letters also would be 3/8” steel welded to a tubular frame and attached to the balls.
He proposes limestone in the middle where the words “Home of the National Strawberry Festival” would either be etched in and painted or metal letters would be attached.
“We don’t have all the details, yet,” Vallier said.
John Juriga asked from the audience about sprinkling the plants in the planter and if they used lake water would the water compromise the block or brick?
The DDA spent some time discussing the irrigation system to the Doane’s Landing plantings, and the line that went under Belleville Road to the place where the new sign would be.
DDA member Ken Voigt asked why they hadn’t bricked the grassy strip from Liberty Street to the bridge, as expected as part of the streetscape.
Vallier said they started to dig and found an irrigation line, so they stopped.
“If we do end up putting pavers in, the irrigation line will have to be moved,” he said, or the pavers could be used instead behind the planter islands on South Street.
Voigt said that strip looks kind of weedy and the grass gets “a little bit long at times” generally looking unkempt.
Voigt said he has never seen a sprinkler going in that area and, as a police officer, he had spent a lot of time in that part of town.
Joanne Howell, who lives north of the bridge and walks to her downtown antique shop, said, “They come on real early. I get wet sometimes.”