Carrolltown's Eye-popping Sign CARROLL COUNTY

September 28, 1993

Carrolltown Center's new owners are getting exactly what they wanted when they planned new signs for the mall -- that is, people's attention. Just about everybody who drives by the South Carroll mall seems to have formed an opinion of the newly erected 35-foot assemblage of poles, awnings, facades and superstructures that outlines the entrance to the center's indoor court.

Carroll County's Planning and Zoning Commission has also entered the fray. Through a series of missteps within the county regulatory process, the commission never had the opportunity to review the mall's new sign plans before construction. Even though the work is now completed, the commission can require Carrolltown Center to remove or alter the signs along the road as well as at the entrance.

It used to be that new signs for shopping malls didn't arouse such strong responses. Our consumer-oriented society, however, has elevated these emporiums into surrogate civic buildings. They have replaced the courthouse, town hall and town square as places where people congregate. As a result, the public has taken a more possessive interest in their appearances. Changes in a shopping mall's color scheme or design no longer pass unnoticed.

Clearly, R. Dixon H. Harvey Jr., who represents the partnership that owns the mall, wanted to liven up the center's dowdy appearance. Even though the shopping center has been enclosed for years, Carrolltown still looked more like the ordinary strip mall it used to be. The dramatic new entrance corrects that visual impression.

The sign's kaleidoscope of colors and shapes makes a bold statement. The combination of eight bright colors -- from aqua blue to zesty orange -- exudes a festive feel that would certainly appeal to P. T. Barnum or Peter Max. Despite the initial hodge-podge appearance, the design has a coherence and consistency. The red letters are simple and elegant. The shape of the blue facade that extends beyond the roof line has a distinctive Art Deco look.

While the design of the mall's signs may not be to everyone's liking, it has certainly given the mall an identity, which is what the new owners sought. If the owners can get all the people who are talking about the signs to come into the mall, the endeavor, from their standpoint, will be a success.

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