More billboards, some with moving images, could light up downtown Minneapolis during the Super Bowl, creating revenue opportunities for media firms and property owners but raising the potential for visual pollution.
The city is considering a zoning-code change that would expand the area where off-premise advertising signs could be erected. They are currently allowed on portions of Hennepin Avenue, Target Center and U.S. Bank Stadium. Under the proposal, they would be allowed on parts of Washington Avenue and a wider area around U.S. Bank Stadium.
“We have a great opportunity with the Super Bowl and the Final Four and the city is growing and I think it is high time to update the billboards that we have downtown,” said Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame, who introduced the proposal.
Earlier this month, city planning officials discussed the idea, which Warsame said could give advertisers and the city more flexibility as Minneapolis prepares to host the Super Bowl in February. The large sporting event would provide an immense marketing platform for any business.
But not everyone is pleased.
“It’s eye pollution. It’s disgusting,” said Joe Tamburino, chairman of the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA), who compared the appeal of more billboards downtown to the flashy signs advertising bars and showgirls of Pottersville in the holiday film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Discussion on the zoning code amendment was continued to the Jan. 8 city planning commission meeting. The DMNA plans to discuss the proposal at its meeting Jan. 2.
“It’s not just the Super Bowl,” Tamburino said. “As soon as you change this zoning, it’s done. It is forever changed, which means that our neighborhood will have to sustain all of this advertising … When Guns N’ Roses, Justin Bieber, X Games whoever it is comes to the stadium, there go the billboards again and the spotlights.”
The amendment would grow the district so that billboards would be allowed on the south side of 6th Street S. and along the west side of Park Avenue from 6th Street to 4th Street S. near the stadium.
Painted wall signs would be permitted along both sides of Hennepin Avenue, beginning at 8th Street to Washington Avenue as well as along the south side of Washington Avenue from Hennepin Avenue eastward to the highway.
Since the mid-1990s, the city has been encouraging the removal of off-premise signs and billboards from residential neighborhoods and less commercial areas. The current law was established to help regulate billboard location, size and illumination “so as to minimize their visual blighting effects.”
In the most recent report on the amendment, staff argued that Hennepin Avenue already has several illuminated billboards.
“This amendment would allow for more signs and more billboard industry firms to have signs in the downtown market,” according to the report.
In response to Tamburino’s criticism, Warsame said the new proposal does not affect the city’s historic districts and the city would listen to resident feedback.
“We do not want it to impact the livability,” he said.
Mayor-elect Jacob Frey, whose current City Council ward would be affected by the ordinance change, said Tuesday he hadn’t been able to review the latest version of the proposal and couldn’t comment.