3-D Billboards in Center City? Company Presents their Vision to the Planning Commission

The proposed displays would be outside the Convention Center, Reading Terminal Market, and the entrance to a South Broad garage.

Screenshot of Outdoor Catalyst's Philadelphia UEDs  video.

Screenshot of Outdoor Catalyst’s Philadelphia UEDs video.

Nothing is set in stone yet, but if things go according to one advertising company’s plans, Center City could get closer to taking on a “digital district” look not unlike a mini-Times Square (We have digital displays on the Lit. Brothers building now, after all).

PlanPhilly’s Jared Brey reports Catalyst Outdoor had an informational presentation before the Planning Commission on Tuesday regarding their proposal to build “three-dimensional digital billboards in a few corners of Center City.” In addition to featuring regular ads, these “Urban Experiential Displays” would “promote local nonprofit organizations, share news and ‘infotainment,’ and carry police and municipal alerts.” (You can see a video of their vision here.)

This, the firm says, is what sets the digital billboards apart from others:

Catalyst says the UEDs are intended to enhance a “sense of place” in the areas they’re built, and to “reinforce the identities of our commercial corridors.”

Brey adds that Catalyst Outdoor plans on sweetening the deal if permitted to install their UEDs:

[Founder Thaddeus] Bartkowski emphasized the financial component of the legislation: $5.2 million of the revenue from each sign would be given to a different nonprofit organization over the course of 25 years. The first three nonprofit organizations proposed to receive those funds are the Reading Terminal Market, the Avenue of the Arts, and the Center City District. The Planning Commission would also have some say in selecting the beneficiaries of the UED revenue, according to Bartkowski.

Of course, all of this can only happen if the bill Councilman Mark Squilla introduced in November is passed:

Squilla’s bill would create a special zoning overlay district in Center City, where UEDs would be allowed on properties zoned CMX-4 and CMX-5, the two highest-density commercial zoning categories.

But even then, the bill only “adjusts the zoning code to make way for the signs’ future placement,” so each proposed UED would still have to undergo review from both the Planning and Art Commissions before they’re installed.

3-D billboard proposal presented to Planning Commission [PlanPhilly]