Councillors have decided that there's not much point to updating the decades-old Welcome to Edmonton signs that sit on the edges of the city.

In a 5-7 vote Tuesday, councillors shot down the idea of refurbishing the seven existing signs with new facades, which would have cost around $500,000 and taken 18 months.

"When you purposefully design something as rustic (you can't) then call it dated." - Coun. Brian Anderson

Instead, they decided to keep the current wood-and-concrete signs. Councillors also directed crews to put up three similar signs which had been removed from roadsides because of the construction of the Anthony Henday.

"I'm pleased, but I'm also a  bit frustrated, disgusted with the whole exercise," Coun. Dave Loken told reporters after the vote.

"I don't think it was necessary."

Loken said the existing signs don't need to be replaced and that he hasn't heard any complaints about them.

"There was no angst, there was no call for it. There was no reason to do it."

Signs hurt city's brand, council hears

Aside from occasionally being hit by a car, city administration said the current signs are "in great shape" structurally and could continue to stand for a long time with regular maintenance.

Whether they are aesthetically sound, however, is another matter. During the debate, Trish Webb, the city's director of communications, said the outdated signs were sending the wrong message about Edmonton.

"A brand needs to be refreshed on a regular basis," she told councillors.

"(The signs) speak more to the 70s and 80s and not to the 21st century."

Mayor Don Iveson agreed, urging councillors to differentiate between "chic" and "outdated."

Councillors were given four options for replacing the signs:

  • replace them with "enhanced" highway-style signs (estimated cost: $150,000 - 175,000)
  • keep the old sign base and put new facades on them (estimated cost: $500,000 - $600,000)
  • hold an open competition for designs of the new signs (estimated cost: $1.2M - $1.5M)
  • a hybrid option, with different locations getting different treatments

Councillors quickly shot down the hybrid option, with many arguing it could inspire inter-ward jealousy over which areas get the better signs.

The current design won out. Coun. Brian Anderson, who called the design "rustic," said it represents the city's history as a frontier trading centre in northern Alberta.

He pointed out the city still uses the hewn-wood look on signs for parks and neighbourhoods.

"When you purposefully design something as rustic (you can't) then call it dated."

In March, the city pulled down the "City of Champions" slogans that were attached to the signs.