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September 2, 2014, 12:49 am

Council gets plan for digital billboard

Squilla says it would benefit area schools


In a move that’s likely to be controversial, city Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a bill on Thursday that would use a digital billboard to generate money for local schools.

“Times are tough right now,” Squilla said.

He expected that advertising revenues from the plan could generate as much as $500,000 annually.

Those funds would be administered by a specially appointed board which would allocate the money to area schools. He said 20 percent of the total generated funds would go to the proposed Center City North Improvement Fund and 75 percent would be given to education programs.

“Each school in that area would be able to apply for things they needed for the school, and then it would be voted on by the board, only to public schools in that immediate vicinity,” Squilla said.

His plan calls for the billboard to be placed on the roof of the former Electric Factory at Seventh and Callowhill streets.

He admitted the idea was likely to generate opposition.

“That’s why we have open hearings,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to get all of their ideas vetted and if changes need to be made, we could make some changes.”

A proposal for a similar digital billboard in the same general area generated a local outcry before Squilla took his seat, and the plan was eventually scrapped by his predecessor, Frank DiCicco. It did not include provisions for generating school revenue.

In other Council news, the Committee on Rules this week approved a measure sponsored by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson that would allow the city to use eminent domain to condemn 28 properties in the Point Breeze section.

Under the proposal, which could come up for a vote by the end of the month, the city would authorize the Redevelopment Authority to condemn the properties and build affordable housing on the sites.

Developers – among them Ori Feibush, who garnered national headlines for his battle with the city over his cleanup of a trash-filled vacant lot – have asked Council to shoot down the measure.

Johnson contends the move is a way to make sure that Point Breeze remains an affordable neighborhood.

“There is a place for affordable housing in Point Breeze,” Johnson told the Tribune recently. The “sole purpose is to make sure we stabilize the area, so that as neighborhood gentrifies, we have a level of housing for everyone. Everyone should have the ability to buy a home in Point Breeze.”


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