The Gallery and Market East are in need of a desperate facelift. Developers and City Council seam to believe that large animated digital advertisements is exactly what the district needs. A city council bill has been proposed that would create a commercial advertising district on Market, between 7th and 13th Streets. The lighting, supporters say will draw tourists and convention goers to a new entertainment zone near the Gallery shopping mall. Developers want invigorate Market East, envisioning it full of themed restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and movie theaters. There is also talk of bringing in upscale "big-box retail stores" to draw Center City residents who now drive to South Philadelphia for their general household shopping, says Carl Primavera, and attorney who represents billboard companies. In its current state Market East is underwhelming and underdeveloped, lacking the vitality that will entice conventioneers and tourists.
On the contrary opponents see this bill as a disaster. They believe a potentially majestic and charming district will be totally stigmatized with chunky bill-boards and bright lights. Philadelphia is not a second rate city and shouldn't result to desperate measures of imposing a false identity already branded by its big brother just 100 miles up north. Philadelphia's brand has always been history, preservation and the arts. That is why people visit this city. As planners, preservationists, and developers who have an invested interest in the future of Philadelphia, we should be looking at innovative and exciting unique ways to enhance our city while still preserving and staying true to its identity, not settling for easy-fix, temporary, dated and potentially disastrous solutions just to make a quick buck. When Philadelphia gets these rare opportunities to rebrand itself and make a statement to the world that we are a first class city with a lot of great personality, we settle for mediocre. We need to recognize the treasures we already have and enhance and celebrate them, not cover them up or taint them with false illusions.
When people visit Philadelphia they are looking for what makes Philadelphia different from any other city. They ask themselves what is so special about Philadelphia that they can say to their family and friends at home, "You must go to Philadelphia to experience this!" If we continue to borrow experiences instead of creating our own, we will continue to loose our credibility as a first class destination. Lets run with the momentum of Green in 2015 and set our sights on becoming a global destination by 2035 with creative bold ideas that bridge commerce, history, entertainment, leisure, accessibility, education and livability.
Also check out "Bright Lights Big Mistake?"at Philly.com