Signs and Awnings

All proposed exterior signs in a historic district are subject to approval by the Historic District Commission and the provisions of the sign ordinance of the City of Kalamazoo. Furthermore, to ensure that the scale, shape and type of signs are consistent with the character of the historic district or site, the following sign standards shall govern:

  • Signs shall be restricted to those, which identify the name of the establishment and/or the primary business or service provided within. Advertising related to businesses or services not provided on the premises shall be prohibited unless, at the discretion of the Historic District Commission, such advertising is historically appropriate.
  • Banners and flags bearing emblems, symbols or messages shall be permitted on an interim basis and annually reviewed to ensure their sightly appearance.
  • Signs shall not be placed so as to conceal or disfigure any architectural feature of a building. The style and size of all signs shall be visually compatible with the buildings on which they are attached.
  • Metal signs, wood signs, glass signs, and signs painted on masonry are permitted.
Not permitted in the historic district:
  • Plastic, fiberglass, and internally lit signs.
  • Portable or roof signs, signs attached to natural growth.
  • Obsolete signs and their structural framework.
  • Signs which are not expressly permitted by this policy, or which violate the provisions thereof.
  • Engraved signs. • Revolving or moving signs.
  • Scrolling, message trailing or ticker tape type signs.
Also subject to Historic District Commission Review are:
  • Style and size of all letters and numbers
  • Lighting and illumination
  • Sign message and content
  • Location, size, number, shape and form of signs
  • Sandblasted signs


Freestanding signs should be two-sided to inform people in cars and on foot. Signs may not be internally lit, but may be illuminated by spotlights

Alterations to Existing Signs

Any sign that exists on the effective date of this policy which is nonconforming and does not comply with all of the provisions hereof, shall not be changed, altered or rebuilt in any manner described as follows, without prior review and written approval of the HDC. These signs shall not be changed to another type of sign, which is not in compliance with the policy or have any changes made in the words or symbols used or message displayed on the sign, unless the sign is designed for periodic change of message. Nor shall they be structurally altered so as to prolong the life of the sign or so to change the shape, size, type or design of the sign.

Acceptable Sign Types Include:
  • Flat wall signs
  • Dimensional surface signs
  • Free-standing signs
  • Ground signs
  • Projecting or pole signs
  • Window signs
  • Awning and canopy signs
  • Banners
  • Directional signs

All new awning applications must be reviewed by the full commission. 

  1. A standard street level awning should be mounted so that the valance is about 8 feet above the sidewalk and projects no more than 3 feet from the building.
  2. A 12-inch height valance flap is usually attached at the awning bar. The valance is the only portion of the awning, which can serve as a sign panel. The only information allowed on the panel is business name, address and logo.
  3. The awning may be attached either just below the storefront cornice or between the transom and display windows (allowing light into the store while shading merchandise and pedestrians from the sun).
  4. The awning should fit within the storefront opening, i.e., should not cover the piers or space above the cornice. Aluminum awnings or canopies generally detract from the historic character and should not be erected

New coverings for existing – previously approved – awnings may be administratively approved by the coordinator if the colors, content, placement of printing and materials are appropriate.