A move is afoot to stop sign clutter of the downtown skyline before it becomes an issue.
Several months ago, the 12-member Design Review Committee of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. started mulling the issue after some members raised it.
“It’s a nice aesthetic when you look at downtown, and you look at the buildings we have and you don’t see signs on the buildings,” said committee Chairman Michael Bennett, principal and CEO of Bennett Benner Partners architecture firm in Fort Worth. “That keeps focus on the quality of architecture and the quality of design in downtown.”
The committee is gearing up to get language in the downtown design standards changed so that buildings taller than 10 stories cannot have signage at the top. Those signs typically reflect the name of the building or the largest tenant.
A few buildings fall in that category now, and if the standards are changed, those signs will be grandfathered. The committee, though, seems concerned that future developments could increase the number of requests and essentially clutter the skyline.
There is no height limit for signs at the top of buildings. Until now, building owners have simply understood that they wouldn’t put up signs on the mid- and high-rise buildings, Bennett said.
“This is codifying the gentlemen’s agreement that’s existed,” Bennett said.
Melissa Graham, property manager at 777 Main, said current and past owners of the 40-story office tower have been in accord with other high-rise owners not to put signs that high. The building went up in 1982.
The only time one was considered was in 1998 when UPR became the building’s major tenant, she said, and then only briefly.
“It wouldn’t have worked,” Graham said. “We want a wonderful skyline, unobstructed.”
The number of signs on a building now are limited. Building owners can have signs on two sides of a building with only one message, and the sign must complement the building’s architecture.
Some downtown buildings taller than 10 stories have signs at the top.
The AT&T logo faces south on its building at 11th and Throckmorton streets; the Omni Fort Worth and Sheraton hotels on the south end of downtown have signs, Trinity Terrace on the west edge of downtown has signs, and Legacy Texas Bank has its name at the top of the 20-story Two City Place at 100 Throckmorton St.
The proposed change must go before the Downtown Design Review Board, and if the board approves, it will make a recommendation to the Fort Worth Zoning Commission. The commission, in turn, will make a recommendation to the City Council, which would vote on the change.
Melissa Konur, planning director for Downtown Fort Worth Inc., a downtown advocacy group, said she has seen an increase in the use of custom blade signs on downtown buildings, smaller signs that hang from brackets and jut out from the building.
“We have a fairly pristine, clutter-free skyline,” Konur said. “Our large buildings don’t put big signs at the top of their buildings. In general in downtown, [businesses] are getting more creative with signage.”