Downtown digital sign nixed by architecture board|[02/27/08]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Approval of a digital sign for the Vicksburg Convention Center was denied Tuesday by the board that reviews changes in the city’s historic districts.

Citing nonconformity to height and square-footage requirements, the Board of Architectural Review voted against allowing a large sign in the 1700 block of Washington Street presented by convention center director Larry Gawronski and city landscaping director Jeff Richardson.

Gawronski said the double-sided, digital message board would announce convention center events on a main thoroughfare and make it easier for out-of-towners to locate the center on Mulberry Street.

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“People have asked us for 10 years, ‘What’s going on at the convention center?'” Gawronski explained.

The convention center’s current fiscal year budget includes $50,000 for the sign.

Gawronski and Richardson presented the board with several designs, all of which surpassed height and square-foot limits created for the downtown area as well as the restriction on signs lit internally. The pair chose one plan for consideration after board members said they could not approve a conceptual plan subject to changes in design.

The proposed sign would be at least 50 square feet and upward of 30 feet high. Plans call for it to be installed on land owned by the City of Vicksburg across from Thomas Furniture at 1711 Washington St., east of the convention center at 1600 Mulberry St.

“I don’t see any aspect of this that is acceptable in the historical district according to our guidelines,” board member Charlie Gholson told Gawronski and Richardson.

Five present board members voted unanimously to deny a permit for the sign.

Gawronski said before the review that he expected the architecture board to reject the sign. An appeal of the board’s decision can be sent to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen within 10 days. The city-owned center is managed under contract by Gawronski’s company and funded by rental revenue, a 2 percent tax on rooms rented by the night and a general fund supplement.

In another matter, the board approved MR Development’s application for changes to a building in the 1400 block of Washington.

Conversion of the 50-year-old building at 1418 Washington as part of the Ware House complex will include squaring and widening the building’s exterior arches and opening a second-floor patio. The outdoor area will serve as a smoking area for a restaurant under construction there, according to MR Development’s application.

MR Development now owns six buildings on Washington’s 1400 block. The Ware House development includes hotel suites, a sports bar, lounge, and forthcoming amenities that include a restaurant.

Vicksburg Foundation for Historical Preservation Director Nancy Bell presented the application.

The board also voted to approve William Combs’ application to install storm windows at 1215 Adams St.