Passersby to 399 Washington Street in Dedham Square have noticed something new, a three dimensional façade sign with a bold and colorful logo, advertising “Yoga Energy”, which opened the doors to its new studio last spring. Yoga Energy’s new sign was funded in part by the Dedham Square Circle’s (DSC) “Sign & Façade Improvement Program” which offers matching funds to merchants and property owners seeking to make physical improvements to the exterior of their properties and storefronts.
According to Amy Haelsen, Dedham Square Circle Executive Director, the Sign & Façade Improvement Program is modeled after the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “Main Street” approach to commercial district revitalization. This approach focuses on four key areas, Organization, Promotions, Economic Development and Design. The “Main Street” philosophy points to how a downtown’s physical assets convey a positive visual message about the commercial district and what it has to offer.
“Visually attractive downtowns, naturally draw more people,” said Haelsen. “Our goal through the Sign & Façade Improvement Program is to provide assistance to business and property owners to make physical upgrades they would not be able to do otherwise.” Haelsen said. “The matching funds are a big incentive for them to participate and by working with the owners directly, we can offer input on the design to best complement the Square.”
Melanie King, Chair of the DSC Design Committee, shared that physical improvements tend to have a ripple effect in a downtown. “Once neighboring businesses see the outcome, they often are the next ones looking to improve their own storefronts,” she said. DSC works with merchants and property owners by offering design assistance and suggesting creative resources for their project. Dedham Resident Martha Abdella, a member of the DSC Design Committee, worked with Yoga Energy owner Bianca Grace to create a visual identity for the studio which was incorporated into her new signage. “I feel like my new sign communicates a lot about my business,” Grace said. “It is very eye-catching and has definitely attracted a lot of attention, which is exactly what I was hoping for,” she said.
Any Dedham Square merchant or property owner interested in making upgrades to their properties are eligible to participate in the Sign & Façade Improvement Program. For new business owners like Bianca Grace, who also resides in Dedham, the assistance she received through this program made a big difference. “There are so many unforeseen costs when you open a new business,” she said. “Without the support from the Dedham Square Circle, I would not have been able to do this on my own.”
“When you have a vibrant and attractive downtown, it benefits the town as a whole by sustaining or increasing property values, instilling a source of pride for residents, and helping to attract future businesses and investors,” Haelsen said. “Physical improvements to the Square are a good investment.” Since DSC launched its Sign & Façade Improvement Program in 2008, other businesses in the Square which have participated include SheepSkate, R.C. Stamm & Company and the Dedham Community Theatre.