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Allentown planners review new digital-video sign on downtown building

By Lou Gombocz, Jr., WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 08 2014 10:00:18 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 09 2014 05:05:36 AM CDT
New digital video signs for Center Square
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Of all the new development and construction in recent months in downtown Allentown's center square located at Seventh and Hamilton streets, it now comes down to whether or not city planners and officials will allow signage in the new Hamilton Street district to brighten up the night sky or not.

The Allentown City Planning Commission Tuesday passed a motion of recommendation, satisfying current city ordinances on the size and location of a digital/video billboard sign to be attached to the corner of the office building at 645 Hamilton Street.

The building, owned by Two City Center, LP, is located in the monument square's northeast quadrant.   

However, according to city planner Mike Hefele and planning commission vice chair Anthony Toth, the sign's message content and whether off-premise advertising will be allowed, are issues for the city's zoning hearing board, not the planning commission.

"In this case," remarked Toth, "the planning commission has an advisory role."

The proposed digital billboard, according to attorney Victor Cavacini, is a replacement for a  former non-conforming-to-ordinance sign located on the upper half of the former First National Bank building.

Cavacini represents J.B. Reilly, managing partner of Two City Center.

As Reilly described to the commission, the new billboard will be attached above the first floor to the southwest corner of the building and include digital messages slated to change every 10 seconds and a message crawl at the bottom.

He added the sign will include the National Penn Bank logo across its top, have high-definition picture quality, and will be 11.9 feet wide and 14.7 feet tall.

The previous sign-- which advertised bail bonds services -- was 15 feet wide and 20 feet in height for a total of 300 square feet.

The newly proposed billboard measures 175 square feet in area, approximately 26 feet over city ordinance.

Hefele cautioned the planners, "What do we want the downtown to look like....do we want the Times Square look versus the traditional approach?"

Reilly interjected, "The last thing we want to do is cheapen the downtown environment. We are doing things that are contemporary with the downtown marketplace."

Toth questioned how the new sign's video board will be presented and whether it will be a distraction for drivers.

The planners agreed approval for future signs downtown will be addressed on a case by case basis.