Philly Considers Times Square′s Forbidden Fruit

Monday, November 29, 2010
Proposal for Philly's East Market Street (Courtesy Philly Daily News)

Proposal for Philly's East Market Street (Courtesy Philly Daily News)

Philly’s East Market Street could offer a small slice of Times Square’s neon nightlife if a proposed “commercial advertising district” makes it through City Council.  Developers and billboard proponents are betting that digital advertising signs will keep tourists shopping – and spending – downtown, but the Philadelphia Daily News says not everyone is going along for the ride.

With Philly’s convention center and thousands of tourists and residents only a few blocks away, city leaders are baffled when Center City streets are abandoned at sundown. Some believe these dynamic billboards, attached to new and existing buildings, will create a sense of vitality that could spur a vibrant shopping and entertainment district able to hold its own against the likes of the King of Prussia mall.

Opponents say the gaudy signs will be incompatible with Philly’s historic brand, leading one civic group to call the proposal “honky-tonk junk.” The advertising is, in a sense, selling out when other redevelopment opportunities exist.

But digital advertising is seen as a catalyst for redevelopment and improvement of downtrodden East Market Street. From the Daily News:

According to Paul Levy, executive director of the Center City District, revenue from advertising is needed to “stimulate development in that corridor.”

He said he disagreed that the proposed changes would make the area look like Times Square and that the bill permits large ads only on buildings whose owners have agreed to use the money to improve their properties, both the interior and exterior.

Philadelphia will continue to study the proposed advertising district while details are being worked out, but the specter of digital ads covering East Market Street is sure to make the debate a lively one.

What do you think, can digital billboards and the Times-Square-Effect create a revitalizing energy to bring up a struggling street? What does the advent of “advertecture” mean for design overall? Have we finally learned from Las Vegas? [ Via Brownstoner. ]

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4 Responses to “Philly Considers Times Square′s Forbidden Fruit”

  1. MEnona says:

    They should look at the bustling nightlife that wasn’t created in downtown Columbus Ohio by a similar effort. The problems are that Rents are too high for normal people to live in such areas in sufficient density to support general commerce and presence after they leave work at 5. It’s the same everywhere. Neon and fun colors won’t change decades of social and economic engineering.

  2. Wes says:

    Philadelphia is a lot different than Columbus. Center City is very densely populated and walkable. It always has been thanks in part to the fact that it’s serviced by one of the oldest and largest public transportation systems in the country. Philadelphia never had the debilitating loss in population that killed urban cores in places like Cleveland and Detroit. Philly’s population has gone down but it maintained enough to sustain its viability. This project isn’t a gimmick aimed at bringing in new residents, it’s intended to serve as a resource for the large number of residents already here.

  3. Interlocutor says:

    Giant digital advertising districts are a proven way to create an iconic place, the question in my mind is: are these really the kinds of public spaces we want in Philly? Where is this pressure coming from to copy Manhattan + Tokyo + Bladerunner?

    Is advertising the only form of art suitable or viable for public spaces?

    Do New Yorkers even really hang out in Times Square?

  4. Anonymous Bum says:

    Oh, boy! Some night time entertainment for the homeless bums down on Market East.

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