By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Nutter says he will support a controversial plan for two large, 3D electronic displays in center city, as long as City Council makes some final tweaks to the measure.

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Nutter has allowed City Council’s plan for two 3D billboards (called “Urban Experiential Displays,” UEDs, by the company that builds them) to become law without his signature.  He has reservations about the plan, but rather than veto it outright, he struck a deal with the measure’s sponsor, Councilman Mark Squilla.

Squilla has promised to resolve the mayor’s concerns with further amendments to his law.

“This enables it to move forward in a way that the administration feels comfortable, we feel comfortable, to make sure all the checks and balances are in place,” Squilla told KYW Newsradio this morning.

Squilla plans to amend the law in several ways, clarifying the purview of the City Planning Commission, PennDOT, and the city’s Streets Department, and mandating city oversight of community benefits agreements.

This will allow for the UED manufacturer to later seek specific approval for each of the two structures:  one on the Broad Street side of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, the other on North 12th Street, across from the Reading Terminal Market.

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Squilla believes the end result will be a boost to center city.

“I think the UEDs are needed to help promote the City of Philadelphia, to show the City of Philadelphia is alive and vibrant, to also help the communities in the surrounding areas of where the UEDs are placed,” he says.

But opponents of the plan — including the Center City Residents’ Associationargued that the UEDs are too large and too bright, and that the advertising is not appropriate for those locations.  In his letter to City Council, Mayor Nutter said he understands those concerns but believes that “in certain locations, well-designed displays may in fact add to the landscape.”

Officials with Catalyst Outdoor, the marketing company that will operate the billboards, have said that 70 percent of the content displayed would be advertisements, the rest would be public service announcements and other material, including promotions for local nonprofit organizations.  The Convention Center and the Reading Terminal Market also stand to receive a portion of the ad revenue.


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