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Santa Rosa Design Review Board seeks to rein in Dick's sign


Dick's Sporting Goods likes big stores and big signs.

The Pittsburgh-based retailer, which hopes to open a store just south of Coddingtown mall, requires its store entrances be tall, wide, and prominently display the Dick's logo on a green background.

"They want you to be able to go anywhere in the country and say 'That's a Dick's,'" said architect Ed Wade of Herschman Architects in Cleveland.

But Santa Rosa's Design Review Board on Thursday objected to the proposed store's massive entrance, which members said looked like a 50-foot tall billboard bolted onto the front of a one-story building.

"I think it's there to be a billboard," Chairman Doug Hilberman said of the entrance. "I think it's out of proportion with the rest of the store. (It) seems to be there for no other reason than to provide signage."

Board member Warren Hedgpeth called the size of the entrance tower "very disarming" and said its "tipsy topsy height" wasn't well integrated with the rest of the structure.

"I think the scale is too big. It's too loud. I think it's better to scale it down some," Hedgpeth suggested.

The size of the entrance was just one of many concerns expressed by the board about the application by Codding Enterprises, which said it has been working for two years to land Dick's as a tenant for a proposed 50,000-square-foot building at the intersection of Cleveland and Edwards avenues.

Some wanted to see better access for pedestrians and improved parking. Others wanted the side of the building facing an apartment complex to be something other than a blank wall. More information was requested about how two heritage oaks would survive construction.

Some members of the public worried about how the project would impact the western landing of a future bicycle bridge planned for the area.

But the size and scale of the entrance was the biggest issue by far for the board.

Codding officials explained that they had worked to get Dick's executives to accept changes to its typical big-box store design. These included making 80 percent of the front of the store glass, something they don't normally do because it changes how they lay out the store interior. Other architectural elements — such as the use of brick, stonework and awnings — were added to help the building match some elements of nearby Coddingtown.

"We pushed and pushed and pushed Dick's to bend on their prototype store," said Kirstie Moore, development director at Codding Enterprises.

But top executives at the company were adamant that the core design of the entryway was not something they would change, Wade said. In one case the company ordered the entrance of a store under construction to be torn down and rebuilt because it was eight feet too narrow, Wade said.

Moore said Codding Enterprises was "caught between a rock and a hard place" because Dick's officials were inflexible on the issue.

"I think the entry tower is going to be a sticking point for Dick's. That is their brand," Moore said.

But the city has been equally adamant that signs can't just stick up from the top of buildings like crowns.

Building signs are not allowed to be placed over the level of the building's parapet unless it is found by the Design Review Board to "qualify as an architectural element designed in conjunction with the building architecture."

While the design of the Dick's logo sign — with its 10-foot letters and basketball for an apostrophe — was not something before the board, all six members present unanimously agreed the tower to which it would be affixed was not as an integral part of the building.

"If we were to identify a branding as an architectural element, every single business around would claim that their logo and branding was an architectural element. We have to create some distinction," Hilberman said.

At one point during the meeting, Codding officials asked the board to vote the project as presented, a sign that the company might appeal a denial to the City Council. But ultimately, they agreed to try to get Dick's to agree to a smaller entryway more integrated with the rest of the building.Hilberman said he appreciated the work Codding Enterprises had done on the design of the main building, as well as a smaller 2,480-square-foot building on the corner of the property with more modern elements similar to the new Luther Burbank Savings building downtown.

But he said he sympathized with the position the company found itself in.

"To try to take a national brand and to try to then alter it for both existing conditions and also for the local vernacular, it's always a challenge," Hilberman said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater.)