“Billboard blight and mural ads are infecting downtown Miami”

“Billboard blight and mural ads are infecting downtown Miami”

Photo: Sebastián Ballestas, Miami Herald

“…If you’re trying to find the bold new Zaha Hadid-designed exoskeleton high-rise on Biscayne Boulevard, it’s next to Ten Museum Park — more easily identifiable as the Sparkling Smart Water building.

In addition to residing in a multistory billboard, there are the blots on your bay view — the 1-800-411-PAIN sign erected by an accident-chasing law firm or the 3,375-square-foot video screen that adorns AmericanAirlines Arena.

‘Visual pollution ruins what makes Miami beautiful — palm trees, blue skies, interesting architecture,’ said Peter Ehrlich, co-founder of Scenic Miami, which has advocated for tighter regulation of signs. ‘Tourists don’t come here to see giant ads. Residents are not asking for them. Yet they are in-your-face inescapable.’

The city limits the number of mural ads on the sides of buildings to 45. They can be as big as 10,000 square feet. They have not proliferated, but a few have moved to larger or more visible buildings.

‘The outdoor advertisers are constantly jockeying to get on a bigger wall closer to a highway in order to reach more eyeballs,’ said Ehrlich, who calls them ‘monster murals.’

Developer Craig Robins wants to prevent the infiltration of mural signs into the Design District. The last thing he wants to see are tacky ads clashing with glamorous boutiques, modern art and new urban plazas.

‘He’s got a vision, a sophisticated vision,’ Ehrlich said. ‘He doesn’t want any chance of hemorrhoid cream or Estrella Insurance ads next to Tiffany and Cartier shops or a sculpture installation.’ Robins is seeking to protect the Design District from signage blight. He has proposed shrinking the zone in which mural ads are permitted by moving the north border six blocks south to Northeast 38th Street.

On July 8, Miami’s city commissioners are scheduled to hear from Robins, who is the major property owner in the district. Robins was also instrumental in the redevelopment of South Beach in the 1990s.

‘I’m not saying they’re inappropriate for all neighborhoods but we’re aspiring to a high level of art, design and architecture in the Design District,’ he said. ‘Rather than commercialize it, we want to make it a special place that is a source of pride for Miami.’

One existing ad space would be allowed to remain but new ads would be banned under the proposal. Like other property owners, Robins could rent out his prime wall space, much of which is visible from Interstate 95, to outdoor advertisers for tens of thousands of dollars a month. But Robins has commissioned artists to turn the sides of his buildings and a parking garage into ‘beautiful installations.’

‘If we took all our frontage and rented it out, it would be worth millions of dollars per year, but we’re not interested in marketing opportunities,’ he said. ‘The commission is usually sensitive when an idea is definitely for the betterment of the community.’

The city makes almost $4 million a year from fees charged to outdoor advertising companies such as Clear Channel, Outfront Media and Wagner that earn billions from businesses seeking to get their messages and products in front of consumers.

‘It’s another in a line of serial acts of municipal prostitution,’ said Dusty Melton, a Miami-Dade lobbyist and political consultant who co-authored the county’s sign code in 1985. The city regularly flouts the code with its interpretation of it and allows programmable LED billboards that are prohibited, he said.

‘No one has the political will to unplug these illegal billboards that are basically giant TVs on top of poles,’ Melton said. ‘There are probably 30 out there. The three on the Miami Children’s Museum are illegal.’ The city is discussing whether to raise its sign fees. One prime space that it rents out is on its own Miami River Center administrative building on Southwest Second Avenue and Fourth Street — a building that happens to house the code enforcement department…

‘Nothing is too massive,’ Ehrlich said. ‘Property owners are now asking architects to design buildings with large wall spaces available for advertising.’

–Linda Robertson, Miami Herald

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Complete Streets: “Safety advocates unveil report to make St. Petersburg safer for biking, walking”

Complete Streets: “Safety advocates unveil report to make St. Petersburg safer for biking, walking”

Photo:Divya Kumar, Tampa Bay Times

“The movement to make the city’s streets safer unveiled a new report outside Perkins Elementary School on Tuesday aimed at making the city’s roads safer, including the troublesome one outside the school, 18th Avenue S.

‘Our streets should be safe, whether you’re 8 or 80 years old,’ Lisa Frank of the Florida Consumer Action Network. ‘Many streets in St. Petersburg were designed decades ago for the fast movement of cars instead of the safe movement of people.’

The network and Frontier Group released the city’s ‘Complete Streets for St. Pete’ report on Tuesday, which is an initiative to redesign streets to make them safer for biking, walking and using transit, and that in turn will make the city’s populace healthier…

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the city has invested $1 million toward building complete streets this fiscal year by installing 103 flashing pedestrian lights at crosswalks and building 200 ‘bulb-outs,’ or curb extensions, to slow down vehicles and give pedestrians more safety space. The mayor said the city has more work to do and intends to invest the same amount next year.

‘Today, more than 15 percent of workers downtown walk or bike to work because we’ve invested in the infrastructure,’ he said. ‘We can improve the health and safety by expanding these streets to every neighborhood in St. Pete.’

The report, which will be presented to the City Council later this year, also recommended creating protected or buffered bike lanes, lowering speed limits and creating greenways in neighborhoods to calm the flow and speed of traffic.

Erin Adams, the mother of a 9-year-old girl, who lives in the Euclid-St. Paul neighborhood, said the idea of riding their bikes right now is dangerous.

‘We would love to be able to ride our bikes downtown or to all the wonderful parks around,’ she said. ‘But you can feel the wind from cars going by’…

Curtis Holloman, senior director of grants and programs for the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, which awarded more than $170,000 to the complete streets project, said many cities are looking to street improvements to spur economic growth.

Kriseman said improved streets doesn’t just make the city safer and healthier. It also makes St. Petersburg more attractive to businesses and younger residents.

‘A lot of times the differences between where a company chooses to locate or not locate is based on quality of life,’ he said. ‘Having a city that is safe to walk in, safe to ride bikes in contributes to that quality of life.

‘Millennials, in particular, don’t want to own cars. They want to have good walking, and good bike paths and good mass transit. We’re working on all three of those things.'”

–Divya Kumar, Tampa Bay Times

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Complete Streets: City of Cocoa–Space Coast TPO Project transforms Florida Avenue into ‘Complete Street’

Complete Streets: City of Cocoa–Space Coast TPO Project transforms Florida Avenue into ‘Complete Street’

Photo: Space Coast Daily

“The City of Cocoa, with assistance and guidance from the Space Coast Transportation and Planning Organization, began construction on Florida Avenue towards the end of 2016 to transform the road, located in the heart of Cocoa Village, into a ‘Complete Street’…

The scope of the project included roadway reconstruction, replacing the existing water main, new sidewalk on both sides of Florida Avenue, new curb and gutters, on-street parallel parking, minor storm drain improvements, pedestrian scaled decorative streetlights, signage, landscaping and irrigation.

On the north side of the project is a piece of property purchased by the City at 6 Forrest Avenue for the intention of redeveloping the site into a greenspace with a Cocoa Village gateway entry feature. Development should be underway soon for this piece of property.”

–Space Coast Daily

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New Location: “Floating billboard makes waves in Destin”

New Location: “Floating billboard makes waves in Destin”

Photo: Michael Snyder, NWF Daily News

DESTIN — A Destin City Councilman says a local advertiser has gone too far with its large LED billboard on the back of a boat he spotted at Crab Island over the weekend.

Parker Destin shared photos and a status on social media Sunday that showed a large boat with a 20 foot-by 30 foot, two-sided LED electronic billboard advertising various businesses. The boat was driving past Crab Island on Sunday.

‘I understand everybody needs to reach an audience, but good grief,’ Destin said. ‘That was a pretty garish and invasive way to do that.’

The councilman said he has fielded calls from Destin residents concerned about the billboard. The city does not have jurisdiction over Crab Island since it is legally state land, Destin said, but he is still worried about the implications of the floating billboard for the city’s image overall.

‘The billboard is probably the most in in-your-face manifestation of what’s occurring (on Crab Island),’ he said. ‘It’s the over-commercialization of our natural resources, which is troubling because they need to be as natural as they can be in order to entice people to come and visit and to entice people to come and reside here’…”

–Annie Blanks, NWF Daily News

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Technology: E-Ink Signs   “The medium is the message as Sydney installs electronic traffic signs”

Technology: E-Ink Signs “The medium is the message as Sydney installs electronic traffic signs”

Photo: Visionect

“Where I live, the sign tells me that there’s no parking between midnight and 7 a.m. on the 1st to the 16th of the month, except for November to March when there is. No wonder the bulk of the parking tickets I get are from misreading the signs. Then there’s the visual clutter. They are just ugly.

That’s why these new electronic street signs that were installed in Sydney, Australia, are so interesting. They are made with E-Ink, the stuff of Kindles and Nooks, which is readable in sunlight and uses 99 percent less power than LEDs. That’s because it is ‘bi-stable’ — it only consumes power when it’s changing from one color to the other, as if you were flipping a coin. It’s also reflective, not pumping out light like an LED does. So once the sign is set, it holds that message until it’s changed.

Changing signs is expensive. According to Visionect, the company that built the Sydney signs, Los Angeles spent $9.5 million putting up 558,000 temporary parking restriction signs in a single year, ‘a strain on staff and resources that can be reduced by implementing permanent e-paper signs with content easily customizable via cellular networks.’

The signs are not being used everywhere yet; the company told The Register that “the technology came about through staff who saw the potential of e-reader technology to display real time information about clearways to manage traffic flows during special events.” It’s still too expensive to use for every parking sign, which is a shame; they could do so much more.

I’m reminded of Steve Martin’s wonderful movie, ‘L.A. Story,’ where the road signs offer all kinds of useful advice. This could be a start of a whole wonderful new world of urban interaction and communication.”

— Lloyd Alter, MMN