A Sign Law Spurs Investment in Philadelphia

Published By: SANA SIWOLOP JAN. 31, 2012

PHILADELPHIA — An influx of new residents, stores, restaurants and hotels in Center City has largely bypassed Market East, the blocks of Market Street east of City Hall to Independence Mall.

Plans for the area have included shiny glass retail pavilions, multiplex movie theaters and a Disney indoor amusement park, all of which foundered for various reasons. Still, over the last few months, the district’s fortunes have brightened, prompted in part by the imminent arrival of a large new office tenant.

The tenant is Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News, as well as a Web portal, philly.com. It recently signed a lease for 125,000 square feet that will straddle the third floor of the old Strawbridge & Clothier department store building on Market Street and part of the third floor of the adjoining Gallery at Market East, a fortress-like, 1.1-million-square-foot indoor shopping mall that opened in 1977. The mall has three anchor stores, but it has struggled to attract tenants for the upper floors and is only 62 percent occupied.

Philadelphia Media Network will be the first business to take advantage of a sign ordinance that Philadelphia passed last summer to help create a digital district in the Market East section. It allows developers, in exchange for an investment of at least $10 million, to put up and collect revenue from large digital signs and billboards on the outside of Market Street buildings between Seventh and 13th Streets.

Philadelphia Media Network will have two digital signs on Market Street and two on Ninth Street, and each sign will be about 14 feet wide and 45 feet long, said Joseph F. Coradino, the president of Preit Services and Preit-Rubin, the commercial development and management subsidiaries of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, the company that owns both the Gallery and the old Strawbridge site.