Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The city receives hundreds of requests a year to purchase the signs.
Toronto began replacing its beautiful old black-over-white street signs back in 2007, swapping them out for new ones with a more readable typeface, Clearview. Since then, signs have been gathering dust in storage despite hundreds of requests annually from residents to buy them. Now, the city's public works and infrastructure committee is considering a recommendation to sell them all off to the public.
As BlogTO reports, 1,800 old signs are taken down annually but only 5 to 10 percent are thought to be suitable for sale. The rest are turned into scrap metal.
Clearview is a typeface increasingly common on street signs across North America since the Federal Highway Administration approved its official use in 2004. In fact, Toronto was one of the very first non-U.S. municipalities to adopt it.
If the recommendation is approved, Toronto wouldn't be the first city to try such a program. Seattle started selling its decommissioned street signs in 2007 as part of a plan to have all street signage match federal standards. Customers can track the current inventory online and then pick up their desired signage at the city of Seattle's surplus warehouse.
Here's what Toronto's new street signs look like:
And here's what the old ones look like, currently sitting in storage, potentially awaiting the homes of signage enthusiasts:
If the committee chooses to adopt the report, a sign inventory would be posted online with customers able to order via email or phone.
Author's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the city's original black and white street signs used the typeface Akzidenz-Grotesk. The font was only used in the early phases of the city's 2007 street sign redesign. This article also previously stated that all of the city's new street signs are blue with white type. Only major commercial streets use new blue and white signage.