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Road Less Traveled theater wants big sign for better visibility

A new sign of progress is coming to downtown Buffalo – literally.

Road Less Traveled Productions seeks to install a giant new marquee sign on the front of its new home, in the former Baker Shoes Building, located at 456 Main St.

The local theater company says it needs the increased visibility offered by the large banner because the facade of the building is otherwise obscured by the Metro Rail station that sits directly in front of the door.

But at 499 square feet, the proposed black-and-white sign and facade cover would be nearly three times larger than the 175-square-foot limit allowed by the Green Code. So the local theater company is seeking a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will consider the request at its 2 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.

In its application to the city, the theater company says it will install a light banner on the front of the silver metal marquee that juts out from the building's wall, and then stick a sign with its full name and logo on the light box so that its name will be brightly displayed.

However, that won't be enough, it said, so it wants to paint the building facade black from the top of the marquee to the roof line, and adhere a vinyl decal of its circle logo on that, with floodlighting atop the marquee to illuminate it.

"The streetcar stop is high where it blocks most of the marquee if you are anywhere beyond in front of 456 Main Street's doors," the group said in the application. "An additional section of signage above the marquee onto the facade will allow better identification from afar since it will be positioned above the streetcar stop."

It will also make it more inviting to pedestrians, which will "spark interest to create a warmer and inviting experience for pedestrians to walk from the theater district to Canalside."

"With Road Less Traveled Productions' move to the 400 block of Main Street, the facade signage will not only visually extend the theater district, but also visually bridge the theater district with Canalside," the group wrote in its zoning application. "The 400 block of Main Street currently is visually dull and struggles (with) attracting new business and pedestrian traffic. The signage will brighten up that area of Main Street, complementing the Hilton, which is located across the street."

The one-story building, now owned by Ellicott Development Co., has been vacant since the early 1990s, and was recently renovated by the developer in preparation for landing a new tenant. But Ellicott struggled to find one for the building, located on a relatively desolate stretch of Main that still lacks vehicle traffic.

Road Less Traveled was previously located in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center, but moved to the Forbes Theater inside the Buffalo Christian Center at 500 Pearl St. three years ago. When that building was acquired by Ellicott with plans for its new 12-story mixed-use project that is now under construction, Road Less Traveled found itself in need of a new home again, until Ellicott suggested the Baker Shoes building, which officials believe is more suited to the small theater company's needs.

"The City of Buffalo is facing an extraordinary renaissance, not only in business and development, but also in the arts," the group wrote. "Recent change has also caused much national attention and attraction to the area, making Buffalo a strengthening, cultural and diverse community where people want to live, work, explore and stay. The addition of larger facade signage above the marquee at 456 Main St. will add to the visual art and fabric of the community."

Road Less Traveled to build new theater in former Main Street shoe store

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