Proposal would allow variance for projecting signs for tenants of Broadway Street building

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Chuck Wilson, owner of Beaverton Sub Station, and Amy Koski, the city of Beaverton's economic development project coordinator, describe what signs might look like for a proposed sign ordinance variance on the iconic Fisher-Rossi Building.Regular visitors to Southwest Broadway Street in downtown Beaverton could probably find their way to longtime merchants like Beaverton Sub Station, Vanek’s Shoe Repair or Gloria’s Secret Cafe while blindfolded.

For the uninitiated, however, clearly identifying a business and the services it provides involves craning one’s neck from the edge of the sidewalk to read a sign affixed flat against the Fisher-Rossi Building that dominates the block between Hall Boulevard and Watson Avenue.

A proposed sign-oriented collaboration between the city of Beaverton, the building’s owner and 10 of his business tenants could lead to a positive identity change for the iconic downtown block.

The project calls for a variance in the city’s sign code, dating from 1978, that limits projecting signs — those that jut out from a building at a 90-degree angle — to one per building. Originally intended to rein in the increasing size and variation of downtown signage, the standard makes fairness a challenge for buildings that house several retail businesses — all seeking the walking and driving public’s attention.

On behalf of his seven tenants, Chuck Wilson, longtime owner of the Fisher-Rossi building and the popular Beaverton Sub Station, expressed to city officials the need to more clearly identify storefronts along the block.

The result was a pilot plan which, if approved by the City Council and Planning Commission, would waive a $2,100 per-storefront fee for a code variance. If at least one projecting sign is installed within two years, the code variance would remain in place for the building, which has six businesses on the ground floor and one upstairs.

Wilson envisions the addition of creatively and tastefully designed projecting signs adding — rather than detracting — from the downtown business district’s aesthetic appeal and overall vibe.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “It kind of uniforms the building and makes an urban setting look attractive to pedestrians.”

Wilson also sees it as precedent setting for other Central Beaverton merchants whose businesses face sidewalks rather than shopping center parking lots.

“Once we get the ball rolling, we could see the whole law changed,” he said of the more than 30-year-old code. “Then the next (street) won’t need a variance. This is a pilot program that could spur a change for the whole downtown.”

Wilson spoke on the plan at Monday night’s Central Beaverton Neighborhood Association Committee meeting at the Beaverton Community Center on Southwest Fifth Street.

Amy Koski, Beaverton’s economic development project coordinator, delivered a presentation on the proposal. Fisher-Rossi building merchants, she explained, demonstrated the “hardship” that opens the door to code variance discussions with city planners.

“One sign isn’t enough for tenants at the Fisher-Rossi Building,” she said. “There’s no room to put a freestanding sign on the site. The second challenge is the setback further obscures visibility for cars driving by or people walking along the narrow sidewalks.”

She characterized the plan as a sign-oriented “case study.”

“The proposal going to City Council (on Tuesday, July 15) is asking to waive the one-time $2,100 fee. Without that, if all tenants wanted a sign (variance), each one would be charged,” she explained. “With this, they won’t have to do that. If we can show the value of this, we won’t have other property owners go through this process.”

The Fisher-Rossi Building proposal would allow for six signs up to 36-inches-wide and 18-inches-tall above the transom area of the storefronts, two additional signs for the second-floor businesses and one sign on the Watson Avenue end to clearly identify the 1916 vintage building’s name.

Koski emphasized that the variance for the building is just an initial step. The style and design of the signs would be developed among the merchants, Wilson and the city’s planning staff. The signs would still go through the standard permitting process, which includes a separate fee.

“This is just a black-and-white application,” she said of the proposed code variance. “This is not the fun stuff.”

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