Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good Intentions Running Amok

S.C.R.U.B., the forced acronym for the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, found its beginnings doing just that, advocating for the removal of graffiti and illegal signage on abandoned buildings. But like PETA, SCRUB found that you get more attention protesting the President for swatting a fly than you do with sane debates and rational or fact based arguments.

SCRUB first grabbed mainstream attention several years ago for discouraging the city from accepting hundreds of free benches and trashcans from Clear Channel. These free benches and trashcans would have been maintained by Clear Channel who would have used them for advertising. I honestly can't think of another city where the benches and trashcans aren't used for advertising, and I honestly can't think of a city with less benches and trashcans than Philly. Coincidence? Good job SCRUB. Now the hipsters camp out on the ground and everybody throws their trash in the gutter. Thanks for Reducing that "Urban Blight".

These senseless objectors have chosen the attempted revitalization of Market East as its most recent and vocal protest. Councilman DiCicco introduced a bill before the Rules Committee to allow animated signage, digital billboards, and ads on blank, windowless walls left by Market East's mid-century demolition.

The successful revitalization of Toronto's Eaton Centre is often cited as a potential solution to Market East's continuing decline.

What's unnerving about these career picketers is the way that they blatantly mislead their audience with false claims and poorly Photoshopped renderings of what they claim City Council has proposed. The city has hired several design firms to prepare renderings of The Gallery at Market East after the application of these proposals, but SCRUB has released their own misleading renderings showing the corridor's few remaining historic structures shrouded in advertisements for booze and violent video games.

A misleading rendering by S.C.R.U.B. shows an historic Market East facade shrouded in billboards. Bill 100720 does not call for the application of signage to any historic facades.

The proposal to add signage to SEPTA's headquarters would have limited advertisement space to the interior of windows below the third floor. But in another misleading rendering, SCRUB has falsely implied that advertisements would cover half the building.

The subtle ad space on an unused portion of the building's facade would have provided millions of dollars in funding for our ailing public transportation system.

The three story metal walls of The Gallery at Market East could be used to display dazzling advertisements for events and businesses in and around the city.

A professional rendering shows the same intersection with signage covering The Gallery's blank walls with advertising for our nearby Chinatown and Jefferson Hospital.

As SCRUB calls this signage "Digital Blight" and argues that it demeans the street's history, they not only ignore the fact that much of that history has already been demolished, but also the fact that this street's history relied on its brightly lit consumerism. It was our nation's first "Market" street, launching a Main Street in each town across America as the commercial resource for its citizens.

SCRUB routinely ignores The Gallery at Market East in its arguments against signage on Market East, instead directing its attention at neighboring historic structures and neighborhoods, falsely implying that advocates for a better Market East wish to litter the quaint streets of Society Hill with neon and plasma billboards.

This "Digital Blight" honors the street's history. No one but SCRUB has suggested wrapping Lit Brothers or Strawbridges in Dewar's ads. SCRUB fails to mention the blighted blocks between 8th and 12th, littered with surface parking lots, cold windowless concrete, and vacant or misused retail space. SCRUB deliberately avoids mentioning The Gallery, The Girard Trust Block, or the Disney Hole. Instead they divert their audience's attention to Old City and historic buildings hugging Independence Mall. Buildings that have nothing to do with Market East or any revitalization efforts. Buildings and spaces that succeed on their own merit. Buildings that no one but SCRUB has proposed touching.

SCRUB strategically neglects the blight they charged themselves with attacking, stagnating progress and ignoring fundamental economics, all in an irresponsible effort to maintain their relevance.

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