According to PlanPhilly.com, councilman Frank DiCicco has drafted a bill in an effort to revitalize Market Street East. This area includes the commercial strip east of city hall from 13th street down to 7th. After many years, it’s still a down-market cascade of eyesores, grifters, and homeless people. DiCicco’s plan is to make the area more aesthetically appealing by adding building wraps, digital media panels, and large billboards like Times Square (and other places). As a long time resident, it sounds like a good idea to me. I welcome it with open arms. The city planning commission has some lofty projects in the works for this area. Our city is known for being stand-offish (see: unions) towards any sort of development. Why should Market East be any different?
I cringe at the thought of tourists leaving the historical district and then “shopping” at Market Street East or The Gallery. The Reading Terminal isn’t so bad. The real shopping district is west of broad and south of market, but there’s no transition. If DiCicco were to succeed, Market East could be revived with an influx of commercial Americana (T.G.I. Friday’s, Target, American Apparel, etc.) that bridges the gap between The Constitution Center and Rittenhouse Square.
His opposition, “SCRUB” (an organization that fights blight in public spaces) led by Mary Tracy, had this to say:
In order to do this, DiCicco has deleted critical language from existing outdoor advertising zoning codes 14-1604 and 9-602 removing protections that will AFFECT EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD in the city. This means you will have no protection from billboard companies. Neighborhoods and communities throughout the city will be stripped of their rights to enforce billboard laws in order to benefit select landlords and the billboard industry. We can only guess the motivation behind this nefarious bill.
Wow! She called it nefarious. I think she’s being a bit dramatic implying that advertisers can’t wait to prey on every public space. Why should Grays Ferry, or Kensington, or even Parkside have any leverage over what goes on downtown? It would be a shame to see Market East miss another opportunity due to an overblown cop out (remember Disney Quest or perhaps the casino?). If you love something enough then you have to be willing to let it go– let it live. Commercialization is the answer.