Reinvention is often the key to longevity for shopping centers. Take Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa, Calif., for example. The open-air center has served the picturesque Sonoma County community for more than 50 years, evolving from a collection of locally owned specialty shops to a 286,366-sq.-ft. lifestyle development tenanted by several hot national chains.

To complement the recent influx of high-profile tenants including AnnTaylor, Talbots and Chico's, Montgomery Village's owner — a limited liability partnership owned by locally based Coddington Investments — decided to initiate a revitalization of the center.

Divided by six city streets within its 20-acre span, the growing center was becoming difficult to navigate. Coddington Investments felt it was time to improve customer circulation and tenant identification.

“The process of reworking the presentation of Montgomery Village has taken a flexible and imaginative approach, using intricate detailing, skilled craftsmanship and a team effort.”

Enter Scott AG — a design/build graphics firm Coddington commissioned to craft a new signage and identity program for Montgomery Village. “We needed to develop a comprehensive environmental graphics program to implement the necessary changes, while also retaining the welcoming atmosphere that defines the essence of the center's ‘village style,’” says Jim Burch, president of Scott AG.

Per Montgomery Village's original, circa-1950s design and construction plans, tenant signage was roof-mounted above shopfronts. But during the 1970s, the city government banned the mounting of signs at roof level, necessitating the use of sign cabinets with plastic faces under walkway eaves. Recently, Santa Rosa's design review board gave approval for Montgomery Village to return to its original style of roof arcade signage.

This time, Scott AG designed the signage with individual indirectly illuminated lettering. “The major challenge in this process is to make the changes work for all the tenants, while maintaining Montgomery Village's essential character,” Burch says. Scott AG specified unique typestyles and original materials to emphasize the individuality and character of each tenant's signage.

An allowance for the limited use of neon as accent lighting for tenant logos was also included in the new signage guidelines. Scott AG also installed eight freestanding signs carrying 24 tenant names and trellis elements at five key locations. These elements define entrances and provide additional signage for tenants that were otherwise impossible to see from the street.

Along with the new signage program, Scott AG also added various new architectural amenities to the center's new look: A coordinated paint scheme of lighter colors, 300 handcrafted terracotta planters placed on columns in open, park-like spaces throughout the development, iron and teak benches, market umbrellas and a new courtyard fountain. In addition, warm lighting used for all indirect and halo illumination adds to Montgomery Village's welcoming neighborhood atmosphere.

“The process of reworking the presentation of Montgomery Village has taken a flexible and imaginative approach,” Burch says, “using intricate detailing, skilled craftsmanship, and the strength of a team effort including direct tenant input and community support.”

Lisa Burford is a Santa Rosa, Calif.-based writer.