After a test run on Wednesday, the new electronic digital sign at the Colony Park in uptown Hillsboro flashed to life Thursday with information for passersby.
Hillsboro Mayor Justin Harsha told The Times-Gazette the modern-day grandchild of the old Colony Theatre marquee was bought and paid for by federal CARES Act funding.
“There was some extra expense with providing the structure for the sign itself,” he said, “but compared with some of the other trailer-type message boards we were looking at, it was a fantastic deal. We went through multiple bids from a few different companies in trying to find the best deal, and there were some single signs that were on a trailer that cost the same as our two digitals. ”
Harsha said there will be ongoing discussions with the Hillsboro Design Review Board to preserve what he called the “historical integrity” of where the Colony Theatre once stood.
He said there had been discussions about recreating the old Colony Theatre marquee since it had been used for community messages in the past, and he hoped that it could be done again through the new computer-driven electronic sign.
It has more capabilities than will probably be utilized, Harsha said, but for the sake of not distracting drivers, it will be used to convey important messages.
“There had been some designs and ideas that were put out that were too expensive for what we wanted to do,” he said. “We’ve got the groundwork built and the message board up and running, and we’re going to be working on those future Colony Park designs so we can spruce it up, make it look a lot better and built upon it from here.”
While he expressed a desire in trying to emulate as much of what people remembered of what the old Colony Theatre looked like, he admitted that such a project could cost in the neighborhood of $500,000 or more.
He said the new sign is in full compliance with city ordinances, and had been approved by both the city council and the Design Review Board. Barry Stratton of S & S Contractors along with crews from the city of Hillsboro helped to engineer the test run on Wednesday so that it could be fully functional starting Thursday.
Harsha said he informed the Design Review Board that the message format of the sign would be letters on a black background, with the message changing every eight seconds.
When everything is completed surrounding the sign at Colony Park, Harsha thinks it will fit in well with the look of the historic business district.
“I know digital isn’t popular with everybody, but it was the obvious choice to be able to get the messages out and do it easily, versus having someone climb up a ladder and mounting all those little letters,” he said. “There will be more good come out of this than negative, you just watch.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.