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Franklin Institute's Proposed Digital Billboard Draws Fire From Anti-Blight Groups

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Franklin Insitute is asking for city permission to put up electronic display panels to replace its static sign at the corner of 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Critics say they will be at a zoning board hearing this evening to voice their displeasure.

The current zoning code does not allow for electronic signage with 200 feet of Fairmount Park lands, which include the stately Ben Franklin Parkway.

Among those objecting to the sign are the anti-blight group Scenic Philadelphia (a key member of the Philadelphia-based Design Advocacy Group, which represents urban architects and planners) and members of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The proposed digital sign would have two sides, each about 6' by 10'.

Scenic Philadelphia says this sign would set a dangerous precedent, as other digital signs would surely follow.  In a letter to the mayor, the City Council president, and parks and zoning officials, the group says at dusk or dark LED digital signs would become visually dominant in place of the beautifully floodlit buildings which are now showcased along the parkway.

In a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, David Brownlee of the Urban Design Group wrote that digital signage would disrupt the Parkway's "calm grandeur."

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