East Market Street could get glitzy.
City Council Thursday unanimously passed a zoning bill creating a Commercial Advertising District between 7th and 13th Streets. In that district, developers get the option of having large-format, digital signs on buildings to which they make $10 million improvements.
First District Councilman Frank DiCicco came up with the advertising district as a way to liven up a street he calls a “dead zone” after five. The lights and signs themselves could be helpful, he has said, but the real key is the requirement that any developer who puts up a billboard would have to make big improvements to the building.
The bill, introduced by DiCicco and Councilman-at-Large Jim Kenney, allows non-accessory signs – signs that advertise an off-site use. It also allows “building wraps” - advertising that encases a building. It requires that any sign proposed for a historic building get the approval of the Historical Commission. Vacant buildings are not eligible.
Supporters – including Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development Alan Greenberger, who is also chairman of the planning commission – see the new law as a development tool that can help bring investment to a part of the city that has for decades under-performed.
The anti-blight organization SCRUB says the digital signs would detract from the area rather than enhance it, and that while such signage might be appropriate for The Gallery or other specific buildings, East Market is too big a swath. The Preservation Alliance worries the signs would detract from historic structures.