July 15, 2019

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City committee to judge proposed GWL sign on Osborne

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/7/2015 (1470 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When is an outdoor sign too large and too tacky?

That’s the questions councillors on a civic committee will be asked to judge this week, to resolve a dispute between civic planners and Great-West Life.

The insurance giant wants to hang a giant vinyl sign – 20 feet wide by 60 feet long – on its Osborne Street building to commemorate the 50th anniversary of United Way.

Civic planners have rejected the application.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/7/2015 (1470 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When is an outdoor sign too large and too tacky?

That’s the questions councillors on a civic committee will be asked to judge this week, to resolve a dispute between civic planners and Great-West Life.

Winnipeg's sign authority will not allow Great West Life to hang a  giant vinyl sign on this empty wall on the side of GWL's downtown head office.

WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg's sign authority will not allow Great West Life to hang a giant vinyl sign on this empty wall on the side of GWL's downtown head office.

The insurance giant wants to hang a giant vinyl sign – 20 feet wide by 60 feet long – on its Osborne Street building to commemorate the 50th anniversary of United Way.

Civic planners have rejected the application.

"An oversized colour banner does not respect the solemn, subdued quality of Memorial Park, the Legislative Grounds and the monuments and cenotaphs therein," states Braden Smith, the city’s chief planner, in an administrative report to Tuesday’s downtown development committee, which is hearing the appeal against the planning department decision.

The sign would be 80 feet above the ground and face southbound Osborne traffic.

Great-West Life says, as it is one of the five founding sponsors of United Way, it wants to help the agency mark its 50th anniversary in Winnipeg with the giant sign.

The company says the sign will only be in place until October.

Civic planners says the sign doesn’t conform to the downtown sign regulations.

Councillors have recently turned a deaf ear to planning advice in the face of appeals launched by high-profile businesses and non-profits (Independent Jewellers, Young’s Asian grocery, Sport Manitoba, Friends of Upper Fort Garry Park). In this case, appellants don’t come much bigger than Great-West Life and the United Way, which is not part of the appeal.

While the sign’s square footage is slightly larger than what’s permitted (1,308 square feet versus 1,229 square feet) the real issue is the planners believe it’s hanging too high and it’s tacky, given the neighbourhood.

"Where signage is applied and oriented strictly to maximize visibility, it treats buildings as billboards, and detracts from character of the area," Smith states in his report. "The Legislative precinct is characterized by a subdued architectural palette, and deference to the Legislative Building and the monuments and cenotaphs that surrounds it. A brightly coloured oversized sign commanding attention is not compatible with the area."

Smith said the city has to control how high the signs can be placed on buildings. "By avoiding an arms race of ever larger and larger signs competing for attention, we create a more attractive, user-friendly Downtown that is not defined by sign clutter."

The proposed Great-West Life sign

The proposed Great-West Life sign

The committee hearing gets underway at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

This is the same groups of councillors who, two weeks ago, overruled civic planners and allowed Sport Manitoba to include a block-long, enclosed, ground-level parkade as part of its $26-million field house project, even though that’s not permitted in the Exchange District.

And, it’s the same councillors who, six weeks ago, allowed Friends of Upper Fort Garry Park to operate a gravel parking lot for two years – even though new parking lots aren’t allowed in the downtown area – so the group can generate some revenue until it can afford to build an underground parkade.

The Great-West Life application isn’t the only high-profile hearing for Tuesday. Siloam Mission wants the committee to overturn a planning department decision that said the group can’t hang a digital sign on their Princess Street building.

Digital signs aren’t permitted on historic buildings but Siloam says it needs the sign, which will be used to promote its campaigns and solicit donations.

The six-foot-by-three-foot sign will be flush mounted on Siloam’s Princess Street building, 15 feet above the sidewalk, facing southbound Princess traffic.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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