Not too long ago, in the late 1980s, Summerland adopted a theme to provide a unified appearance to the downtown businesses.
The theme, at times known as the Tudor Theme, the Old English Theme and the Summerland Theme, was characterized by its Old English lettering, the half-timber facades on the front walls of the buildings and the emphasis on muted earth tone colours.
Some communities in B.C. and Washington State have had success with themes. In Summerland, the theme had been a point of controversy for some. Supporters said the theme added a character to the community while opponents thought the guidelines were too restrictive.
In addition, while some downtown business owners went to great lengths to comply with the theme, sometimes doing extensive modifications to their buildings, others did much less.
In recent years, the design guidelines and sign guidelines have been relaxed considerably. The most recent issue, the signage at the Bad Robot electronics and computer store, is just one example of lettering that would not have conformed to the former regulations.
The change in direction over the downtown theme raises a few questions.
First, will the downtown area have a disjointed appearance if some buildings adhere to a theme while others do not?
Second, since Summerland spent years branding itself with the theme, will the softening of the regulations hurt our image?
Third, if the guidelines are unnecessary, why was much time and effort spent in creating a downtown theme in the first place?
Adopting a community theme is a difficult process, as has been seen over the years. Abandoning the theme could be just as controversial as introducing it.