Billboard Blocks Long-Sought Development in Philadelphia

Inga Saffron tells the frustrating tale of how the owner of a lucrative billboard can derail an apartment tower planned for Philly's Old City neighborhood that planners have enthusiastically endorsed.

1 minute read

April 13, 2013, 9:00 AM PDT

By Jonathan Nettler @nettsj


"It is, to be sure, a very lucrative billboard," notes Saffron. "Owned by Keystone Outdoor Advertising of Cheltenham, the three-sided display rises 150 feet above a traffic island in Old City at the Race Street entrance to I-95. Two of the billboards are positioned so they are visible for roughly eight seconds to every motorist crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge."

"Sure, the apartment tower could shave some valuable time off their visibility," she continues. "It might even block them entirely from certain angles. On the other hand, the project would make Old City a better place to live. The building would occupy a large lot alongside the bridge that has been empty far too long. It would restore the streetscape with ground-floor retail and greatly strengthen connections to the developing Delaware waterfront."

Changes to the building that were made to accommodate the wishes of the billboard's owners have increased its height by 25 feet, rankling the Old City Civic Association. 

"Instead of focusing solely on building height, we ought to be asking why a deep-pocketed billboard company gets to call the shots. Philadelphia exists as a place to live and work, not as a backdrop for advertisers," implores Saffron.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 in philly.com

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