In June 2011, City Council passed an ordinance creating the Market Street East Advertising District between 7th Street and 13th Street. Intended to spur the revitalization of Market East, the ordinance allows property owners to erect large-format animated digital signage in exchange for major property improvements. The bill excluded historic buildings from the district except in cases where large signs previously existed.
For most of its existence, a large rooftop sign stood on the Lit Brothers building. This qualifies the building for new digital signage under the ordinance, but the Philadelphia Historical Commission must also approve the alterations. The Commission’s Architectural Committee has recommended denial of the proposed signage, finding that the colorful animation detracts from the architectural integrity of the building. The full Historical Commission is set to vote on the proposal at its September 14th meeting.
What do you think of digital signage on one of Philadelphia’s most iconic buildings? Is it a creative reinterpretation of the building’s commercial past, or a crass intrusion? The Preservation Alliance is collecting opinions in advance of the Historical Commission meeting. Please vote in our poll below and leave comments in the comments box, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Katherine Dowdell, a principal with Blackney Hayes Architects and former chair of the Preservation Alliance’s board of directors, makes the case for preservation in the newest edition of DAGspace, a monthly column published by the Design Advocacy Group. CLICK HERE to view a .pdf of her full article.
Her argument in a nutshell? “Preservation projects reuse valuable buildings, contribute significantly to the local economy, hit sustainability goals with ease, give developers 20% of their money back, sail through the approvals process, and make the neighbors happy. The potential for successful renovation and adaptive use projects in Philadelphia is huge. We have a wealth of historic buildings just waiting for the right owner, developer, economy, or use. However, for this to happen, the building has to survive until its time comes.”
Two area sites are among 100 historic places nationwide selected for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s This Place Matters Community Challenge. Philadelphia’s Visitation BVM Parish and West Chester’s Lincoln Biography Building are competing for a share of $40,000 in grants in the Trust’s annual contest. You can vote for your favorite project now through June 30, one vote per person. Represent Philadelphia (or West Chester) by voting here.
This before-and-after montage illustrates the unfortunate effect that replacement windows can have on the unique character of the city’s historic architecture. Like a cartoon character’s x’d-out eyes, the slap-dash vinyl windows recently installed in this Chinatown commercial loft robbed the building of some fantastic, one-of-a-kind diamond panes (some nice balcony railings have apparently gone the way of the scrapper, as well). This is Exhibit A in the case for more historic districts being needed in Philadelphia, where such short-sighted changes are regularly averted through design review. And before shouting “energy efficiency,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s online resource center for historic windows is worth a visit. So is this video.
Other than irreplaceable architectural character and neighborhood identity, what do Philadelphia’s historic churches contribute to the secular health of the city? Our friends at Partners for Sacred Places have the eight figure answer. Read more from yesterday’s Inquirer:
The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia 2010 Citywide Conference is right around the corner, but there’s still time to secure a spot. A Sense of Place: Preserving Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods will take place on Friday, October 8, 2010 from 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM at the Temple University, Student Faculty Center, 3340 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. The conference fee is $20 and includes lunch.
Neighborhood organizations and leaders from throughout Philadelphia are invited to convene for this one-day conference focusing on historic preservation in neighborhoods. Participants will have the opportunity to expand their understanding of the important role of preservation in neighborhood stabilization/revitalization, learn about successful examples from local communities and meet with representatives of the non-profit and governmental organizations that are playing an active role in these efforts.
CLICK HERE for more information or to register.