Faux Neon LED Emboldens Hotel Blade Sign

Faux Neon LED hotel
The new blade sign for The Mining Exchange Hotel featured Faux Neon LED.

The Mining Exchange has been a fixture in the downtown area of Colorado Springs, Colorado ever since its opening back in 1902—first as a stock exchange for local mining companies then evolving over the decades into a boutique hotel that today exquisitely welcomes guests, meetings, conferences, weddings, and other special celebrations.

However time had taken a toll on its appearance—a look that was unfortunately highlighted with the recent building renovations and new hotel constructions going on in the area. The owners of The Mining Exchange figured now was the time to modernize their look.

They turned to design company Loaded For Bear to overhaul and update the interior appearance of the aging hotel as well as develop new branding and signage ideas (logos, lettering, etc.) for the property.

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Cutting the aluminum panels.

The branding firm rustled up some sign designs. One of their ideas they liked was a complete reworking of the long-standing existing blade sign that featured routed, push-thru acrylic and housed on an exterior corner of the hotel. The Colorado weather had significantly aged the simple blade sign. They not only wanted to rejuvenate the sign but make it even more effective than before.

With their drawings in hand, Loaded For Bear approached Sign Shop Illuminated, a full-service, Colorado Springs-based sign company with twenty-five years of high-quality experience.

“They wanted the blade sign to stand out in the Downtown Colorado Springs area and bring attention to the hotel not seen before,” says Louis DeSantis, owner of Sign Shop Illuminated.

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Welding the frame for the new blade sign.

DeSantis reveals that when Loaded For Bear handed him their sign design to review, he could tell they already had a tremendous start. It was up to Sign Shop Illuminated to make their sign vision a reality.

“A design on paper is sometimes different though when you have to build it and physically bring it to life,” says DeSantis. “Modifications were necessary in various aspects—from accent pieces to mounting hardware—especially due to the sign’s corner placement on the building.”

Sign Shop Illuminated ended up creating a 300-inch-tall-by-61-inch-wide blade sign for The Mining Exchange featuring gold and white GE Faux Neon LED and black aluminum panels for the outlining of lettering and logos, as well as rolled aluminum accent pieces for the top, bottom, and sides of the sign. (Note: The Mining Exchange’s rebranded color scheme is black, gold, and white, which the appearance of the sign perfectly captures.)

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Painting the aluminum panels.

One aspect of this project that attracted Sign Shop Illuminated was being able to use Faux Neon LED, something they would like to do more often. DeSantis says that, because of the Colorado weather, he wanted to use a product that would have a longer lifespan with minimal servicing needs.

“With the advancements in Faux Neon LED over the years, this was the perfect opportunity to do so while still giving the classic neon appeal,” he says. “The owners had also seen the advancements made over the years, as well as the longevity of the product in the harsh Colorado conditions. They were also attracted to its replaceability and service, when needed.”

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Attaching the Faux Neon LED components to the blade sign.

Sign Shop Illuminated began by visiting the site and removing the blade sign, which they took back to their facility for a more-thorough inspection. They then dismantled everything and started rebuilding from the ground up off the remaining bare basics.

“We stripped it down to the skeletal framing, added additional structure, and rewelded as needed,” explains DeSantis. “We incorporated a new aluminum skin with lettering panels and then installed the Faux Neon LED.” (Note: DeSantis remarks that manually bending the LED tubing was a little more difficult on the smaller letters.)

The sign shop set the Faux Neon LED lighting components onto the blade sign using grooves they had routed into the aluminum paneling and added clips for final attachment.

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Inserting the power supplies into the blade sign.

All the power supplies are located inside the blade sign cabinet for easy access when servicing down the road.

The finishing touch in completing the sign involved adding the rolled aluminum accent pieces, which appear to be “floating.”

DeSantis and his team had noticed that Loaded For Bear’s original design included rolled accent pieces along the sign’s top, bottom, and sides.

But something was missing. “They would have long stretches of that aluminum, and then some parts were just kind of there and not attached to the sign,” says DeSantis.

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Getting ready to lift the new blade sign into place.

Still wanting to keep the same aesthetic handed to them, Sign Shop Illuminated created secure attachment points on the physical sign for this rolled aluminum and create the illusion of the accent pieces floating.

“We minimalized those attachment points so they wouldn’t take away from that rolled look seen on the outside of it,” says DeSantis. “They’re kind of just hidden and give that really nice look around the sign.”

Sign Shop Illuminated used multiple trucks for the installation on a corner of The Mining Exchange. They took full advantage of using the pull-in areas for hotel guests that was inset into the sidewalk. Doing so meant they only had to block off one lane on both sides of a two-way street.

A truck on one side of the street successfully lifted the sign, while another truck on the other street with an installer inside the bucket guided it into place.

Faux Neon LED Hotel
Two trucks were used to install the new blade sign onto the corner of The Mining Exchange.

The use of V-shaped bracketing with holes already drilled into them and Hilti anchors on the back of the sign ensured a seamless and efficient installation process.

The presence of the older bolts meant they had to shift the sign up from its original positioning though. “We had already put the new bolts into the wall ahead of time,” says DeSantis. “There were already some bolts in the wall, but we couldn’t determine when they were installed. We wanted to do a brand-new installation that was only touched by us.”

The entire blade sign project took nearly three months—from the initial discussion to installation.

Faux Neon LED Blade
The new blade sign stands out at night.

DeSantis says that participating in the comprehensive restoration of a historic hotel in Colorado Springs was a source of great excitement for the team at his shop, especially since projects of this scale (and particularly blade signs of this size) are rare.

“We seized the chance to demonstrate our skills and expertise,” he says. “Through the use of Faux Neon LED and rolled aluminum, we were able to craft a final product that now brightly illuminates The Mining Exchange hotel, making it visible from multiple blocks away.”