Feb. 26, 2010
By Kellie Patrick Gates
First District Councilman Frank DiCicco says his proposal to allow for bigger, flashier signs on East Market Street could help revive an important part of Center City.
Right now, DiCicco said, Market East is a “dead zone after 5 o'clock. The street dies.” No city can live up to its potential if a street in its heart goes silent in the evening, he said.
Mary Tracy, executive director of SCRUB, an organization that fights blight in public spaces, agrees Market East needs help. “I applaud the councilman for saying, 'let's take a look at Market Street,'” she said.
But Tracy believes the reduced sign restrictions contained in the bill would have a huge consequence: Severely hampering the ability of the city or concerned citizens to prevent just about any billboard from going up anywhere in the city.
DiCicco said he's open to suggestions, and the bill he introduced to City Council in January, No. 100013, is just meant to start the conversation. “I want to look at what is currently permitted on Market Street and see if any adjustments need to be made to move forward.”
DiCicco brings up the Gallery as an example of a structure that might benefit from some adjustments. Even before Foxwood's now abandoned plan to move to the Gallery, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust was working on a plan to spruce up the place. The city planning department is also working on a plan for the Market East corridor, with New York architecture firm Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn, and part of it includes making big, blank walls more accessible to people on the street.
“Signage can be a component of bringing people in,” DiCicco said.
The Councilman said the bill has a specific target, creating a commercial advertising district on Market St. between 7th and 13th. He said it won't change any rules elsewhere in the city, unless another such district is created.
And even within those boundaries, he said, he's not looking to create a “billboard boulevard.” In a letter sent to concerned citizens who contacted him about the proposal, he points to language in the legislation that requires signs to be 300 feet apart, and 500 feet away from a residental area, among other restrictions.
The legislation does contain language that specifies the new rules would apply only to the area within a special district on Market Street.
Read Inga Saffron's take on Market East