Mayor Fred fundrais­ing for gi­ant city hall sign

Would be an op­por­tu­nity for pri­vate sec­tor to make its mark for Canada’s 150th

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - AN­DREW DRESCHEL An­drew Dreschel’s com­men­tary ap­pears Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day. 905-526-3495 @An­drewDreschel

Toronto has one. Am­s­ter­dam has one. And now Fred Eisen­berger wants Hamil­ton to have one as part of Canada’s 150th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

The mayor says he’s drum­ming up roughly $250,000 in pri­vate fund­ing to build a sign spelling “Hamil­ton” in gi­ant let­ters, which would be lo­cated on the city hall fore­court.

“It would sim­ply say ‘Hamil­ton’ and would have pri­vate sec­tor fund­ing as­so­ci­ated with it and cer­tainly not to be paid from the tax coffers,” he says.

“We’re fundrais­ing for it and we have a de­sign and once I have a more com­plete pack­age, I’ll cer­tainly be bring­ing it to all mem­bers of coun­cil (for ap­proval).”

Eisen­berger says he’s go­ing to be “a lit­tle lean” on de­tails un­til coun­cil sees the plan. So it’s not clear if any pri­vate sec­tor money is com­mit­ted yet.

But the idea is to build a sign like the three-me­tre high and 22-me­tre wide one in Nathan Philips Square that says “Toronto” in il­lu­mi­nated let­ters.

Orig­i­nally cre­ated for the 2015 Pan Am Games, the Toronto sign is now a pho­to­graphic mag­net for tourists and res­i­dents.

Eisen­berger notes Am­s­ter­dam and other cities have also erected large pro­mo­tional let­ter signs in strate­gic places.

“It’s some­thing peo­ple can stand in front of, walk around and take photos of.”

PJ Mer­canti, CEO of Car­men’s hos­pi­tal­ity and entertainment group, is vol­un­tar­ily cham­pi­oning the project for Eisen­berger, along with Laura Babcock, pres­i­dent of Pow­er­group Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a pub­lic re­la­tions and mar­ket­ing firm.

“This will be a pri­vate sec­tor part­ner­ship with other Hamil­to­ni­ans par­tic­i­pat­ing to bring this vi­sion to life,” Mer­canti said via email.

Mer­canti sees the sign be­com­ing a new city land­mark.

“Be­ing lo­cated right in front of city hall the sign could def­i­nitely be an­other dis­tinct com­po­nent of the Hamil­ton land­scape much like the fa­mous AGH (Art Gallery of Hamil­ton) sign over King Street.”

Mer­canti says Eisen­berger ap­proached him with the idea as a way for the pri­vate sec­tor to make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the city for Canada’s 150th birth­day.

“He asked if I would be in­ter­ested in lead­ing this along with Laura Babcock, who has been a pre­vi­ous cham­pion for a sign for Hamil­ton. As a proud Hamil­to­nian, I en­thu­si­as­ti­cally agreed as I think the idea is out­stand­ing, ex­cit­ing and timely.”

Babcock, to pop­u­lar ac­claim, re­vived the old idea of erect­ing a gate­way sign on High­way 403 back in 2013. But the pro­posal fell flat when coun­cil­lors de­vel­oped a bad case of sticker shock over the $230,000 price tag.

Over the last cou­ple of years Babcock says she’s gen­tly re­minded the mayor that the need for a trade­mark civic sign is still there. She’s happy to once again help move the ball down the field.

Eisen­berger first floated the idea of cre­at­ing a gate­way sign dur­ing a Jan­uary in­ter­view with CBC Hamil­ton. Back then, he fig­ured it could be mo­bile. Babcock’s fine with it mor­ph­ing into an in­ner city marker. The im­por­tant thing, she says, is to show­case the city’s sense of pride and unity

“What it re­ally comes down to is we were miss­ing some­thing, some­thing that’s a no­brainer for a city of our size es­pe­cially to have. To get some ver­sion of it done, I think, will be a good day for the city. We’re be­hind on this one.”

Eisen­berger hopes to bring the plan to coun­cil in a month or so. It’s a pity, how­ever, that the idea of a mo­bile sign seems to have been dropped. When you think about it, we could have strung the let­ters along the side of the Moun­tain, thus em­u­lat­ing far­away Hol­ly­wood as well as neigh­bour­ing Toronto.

What it re­ally comes down to is we were miss­ing some­thing, some­thing that’s a no-brainer for a city… LAURA BABCOCK


Peo­ple take pic­tures with and of the “TORONTO” sign at Nathan Phillips Square in 2015.

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