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At Market East, lights and signs aren’t enough

Philadelphia Inquirer: Opinion
Posted on Tue, Mar. 2, 2010

Councilman Frank DiCicco claims that the way to bring crowds back to Market East is to allow bigger and brighter commercial signs (“Putting pizzazz into Market East,” Feb. 26). Other than the obvious benefits to the billboard industry, there is no reason to expect economic benefits from more and larger signs.

The blocks east of the mall managed to right themselves with a few public space improvements. Frighteningly empty after dark a decade ago, those sidewalks are now full of people, in part because of the substantial increase in Center City residents who can walk there and because the surroundings are a bit of old Philadelphia.

Inga Saffron suggests that dramatic new lighting could help Philadelphians see the Gallery “in a whole new light.” Perhaps. But would it induce more people to shop there or simply be a drive-by experience?

Eighth and Market is among the most attractive redevelopment sites in the city. It’s near public transit, the Convention Center, and a 50-story luxury apartment tower. Failure to use this valuable tract should be seen as a municipal disgrace. Lights and signs won’t do it.

Lawrence Houstoun