Digital sign battle lights up in Old City

Old City residents and urban-blight foes have voiced concerns about a 35,000-square-foot commercial and retail space that would bring a hotel and other development to Fourth and Race streets along with a 60-by-24-foot digital billboard greeting incoming Ben Franklin Bridge traffic.

The bill was up for approval Thursday, but City Councilman Frank DiCicco offered amendments so the vote was pushed back a week. He blamed erroneous flyers about a “35,000-square-foot nightclub” as an attempt to “poison the well.”

“I will not allow 15 years of hard work [to build Old City up] to be destroyed by one project,” DiCicco said. “It will never be a nightclub on my watch.”

When DiCicco maintained that the digital billboard won’t be visible to neighborhood sight lines, foes voiced concerns about a “dangerous eyesore” on the city’s gateway. Asked whether ARC Properties development would halt without the billboard, he said, “I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker,” but the revenue stream is a substantial draw.

Robert Caruso, who lives a block away from the site, compared the proposed sign to driving into Atlantic City, which doesn’t make anybody think they’re arriving in “this nice, historic place.”


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