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Councilman Pulls Support For Electronic Billboard Along 'Avenue of the Arts'

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A Philadelphia city councilman has done an about-face, nixing his earlier plan for a massive, 3-D electronic billboard on South Broad Street.

A Malvern, Pa. advertising firm wants the city's okay to put three electronic advertising structures in center city.  One of those locations was to have been on the façade of the garage of the Bellevue Hotel, on Broad Street near Locust.

But now city councilman Kenyatta Johnson (top photo), whose district includes that site, says he's heard from constituents who don't like the idea, so he is withdrawing support for that location.

"People talked about the brightness of the billboard.  People talked about keeping up with the historic nature of the corridor.  So we responded to their concerns," Johnson said today.

But his move strikes a blow to the "Avenue of the Arts" organization, which was due to receive $125,000 annually from the owner of the billboard.

At an earlier hearing, Paul Beideman, president of the organization, called the plan "a game changer" for his group.  He could not be immediately reached for comment about Johnson's withdrawal of support.

Johnson, though, says he hopes to find ways to make it up to the group.

"I'm committed to finding ways of funding it, and finding ways to spruce up that particular part of the Avenue," he said.

The advertising company, called Catalyst Outdoor, is still hoping for City Council approval of two other locations: outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, across from the Reading Terminal Market.   The sponsor of those sites, Councilman Mark Squilla (photo below), says he understands the concerns of Johnson's constituents.

squilla_mark _dunn
Councilman Mark Squilla, in file photo. (Credit: Mike Dunn)


"Until they actually see (the billboards), I think they're a little nervous of what it is," Squilla tells KYW Newsradio.  "You have people out there saying you're going to have these big monstrosity signs, it's going to be disturbing.  But I think once they actually see it and how its implemented, I think we'll see a couple more in that district."

Squilla plans to move ahead with a final vote on the measure for the two locations in his district.

The 3-D billboards have the fancy designation of "Urban Experiential Displays," or UEDs.  They would range in size from 30 to 50 feet.  Officials with the company had said that 70 percent of the content displayed would be ads, and the rest would be public service announcements and other materials, including promotions for local nonprofit organizations.


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