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Debate Continues over Millennial Tower’s LED Billboard Plans

Walker Evans Walker Evans Debate Continues over Millennial Tower’s LED Billboard PlansPhoto by Walker Evans.
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How do you balance advertisements with architecture? That continues to be the heart of the discussion with the 28-story Millennial Tower proposal as it made its way in front of the Downtown Commission for its third round of reviews this morning.

When the new building was first proposed in May 2016 for the southwest corner of Rich and Front Streets, it featured wrap-around advertising measuring six-stories tall that were designed to conceal the interior parking deck, and promote retail tenants and other advertisers, adding to the financial viability of the project.

During its first review, members of the Downtown Commission expressed concern with the overwhelming size and potential brightness issues with the LED signage. A second review of an updated proposal in June got the same feedback, although not much had changed with regard to the LED video advertising screens.

This morning, commissioners got their first look at a new advertisement display plan that featured an smaller LED screen that was reduced to a single story in height that faces just Front Street and not the other three sides of the building. Additional static graphics could be placed on other parts of the building, which could feature artwork or advertising.

“I remain a no vote due to the panels for advertising,” stated Commission Chair Stephen Wittmann. “LED signs are discouraged Downtown outside of two places we have designated where we can use them: along High Street and on Nationwide Boulevard. This is a clear step outside of our guidelines, and frankly, I don’t think it’s appropriate.”

Developer Bill Schottenstein, Principal at Arshot Investment Corporation, said that he had heard Wittmann’s concerns, but countered that the ability to display advertising signage was a critical piece for attracting large retail tenants to the building.

“Front Street is a very mixed-use street and we want to pull people from both ends,” explained Schottenstein. “The video display is important to do that. There are studies that show that the attention span of people has diminished, so we need something that catches the eye. What we’ve tried to come up with is something that is the bare minimum need for that.”

Commissioner Mike Brown stated that he approves of the project overall, but doesn’t see the need for the advertising element.

“I was just in Toronto recently, and they have 18 construction cranes in the sky for residential towers and I spent time walking the city’s streets and nowhere did I see these kinds of LED screens,” he stated. “I love this building, but we’re arguing about one element. We’re arguing about nail polish at this point.”

Commissioner Jana Manaice echoed the same concern with a local comparison.

“I understand that you want this to be exciting, dynamic and successful,” she said. “But look at the Scioto Mile nearby… there’s no LED graphics there, but people love walking there. You have good design here that is cutting edge, but I don’t think we’re there yet.”

No vote was taken on the project today, as it was presented only for conceptual review. The developer is expected to return to the Commission with an updated proposal in the future to seek approval.

Stay tuned to CU for more updates on this project.

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