Mike Jerrick Is the Future of Philadelphia’s Digital District

If we're really going to create our own version of Times Square, we have a few demands.


Picture yourself walking toward City Hall. Traffic zooms past you and as you stroll down Market Street, you dodge rushed business people texting and walking clumsily. The first thought that runs through your mind: Gosh, I wish this felt more like Times Square!

Oh wait.

No one has ever thought that in the entire history of Philadelphia.

But if a new proposal goes through, Philadelphia might just be one Naked Cowboy and a fancy New Year’s Eve party away from the bright lights of Midtown Manhattan.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that Thaddeus Bartkowski is seeking legislation to create a “digital district” in Center City that would permit electronic advertising displays at seven locations including 1818 Market Street; 12th and Arch streets; on a parking garage adjacent to the Bellevue; and at another Parkway property on North Broad Street at Broad and Race streets.

Imagine: Standing in front of City Hall and seeing a  glowing advertisement for cheesesteaks and whatever Broadway show is passing through the Kimmel. What’s next? Giant Hello Kitties greeting us at Dilworth Plaza? Elmo posing with tourists in front of the Clothespin?

Not only do these advertising hotspots have the wonkiest name imaginable — urban experiential displays, or UEDs — the digital displays would clash horribly with our city’s sense of historical accuracy. If we’re unwilling to remove the cobblestones from Trenton Avenue, certainly we are not ready for such bold innovations as raucous, over-stimulating LED screens showcasing whichever smizing model Revlon has chosen to mass market lipstick.

The proposed Digital District (see the map here) cuts across major parts of Center City, including Midtown Village and other areas that are highly-trafficked — and thus, highly appealing to advertisers. The problem? It’s just so tacky.

If we must digitally advertise on the streets of Philadelphia, why not do it an area that’s already aesthetically janky — like all of Chestnut Street or the entire area surrounding the Gallery? The patrons of the Funk-o-Mart and Easy Pickin’s will not mind a little extra flash during their shopping.

It’s unclear whether or not this proposed legislation will amount to anything. Remember, we’re a city that fiercely debated building wrap advertising just a few short years ago. But, if Philadelphia must venture forth toward a future sponsored by Bank of America, there are a few things that we’re going to need to supplement the visual atrocity:

  • If we want to be Times Square, we need to throw a locally star-studded New Year’s Eve celebration. Stick a glittery ball on the top of 1818 Market Street (the home of Philly Mag, incidentally), enlist a celeb like Maria Papadakis to host the countdown and get local bands to perform.  (Just please don’t get the Welcome America bookers to handle it. No one needs to see Earth, Wind and Fire twice in one year.)
  • Good Day Philadelphia should broadcast live from the Digital District. George Stephanopoulos and his pals at Good Morning America ain’t got nothin’ on Mike Jerrick!

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