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Posted at 05:39 PM ET, 01/19/2012

Verizon Center sign proposal is being reworked


A developer’s 2008 proposal to add animated signs in Chinatown ran into strong neighborhood opposition. (Linda Davidson - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Ted Leonsis is waiting at least a little bit longer before erecting new animated signs on the Verizon Center.

A D.C. Council hearing set for Monday on a bill to permit the signs — once described as “likely to wow visitors and infuriate neighbors” — was indefinitely postponed today by Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), whose Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs is handling the bill.

Alexander said in an interview that the hearing was delayed at the request of Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the Verizon-owning company controlled by Leonsis, so it could do “further community outreach.”

Randall Boe, executive vice president of Monumental, confirmed Thursday that the company wanted more time to share its rejiggered plans with neighborhood groups.

“We shared with them our proposal; we answered questions; we invited comments,” Boe said. “One of the comments we got was, ‘Are you willing to work with an architect or designer to make sure this fits in with the neighborhood?’ We’ve done that.”

The new plans call for fewer signs that initially contemplated, Boe said — two digital animated signs would replace larger vinyl signs now hanging on the 7th Street NW face of the arena; another sign would wrap around the arena’s fourth floor at the corner of 7th and F streets. The wraparound signs would use a “mesh” system that allow light into the Monumental executive suite on that floor.

Renderings, Boe said, would be shared with community groups in the coming days.

Washington Business Journal first described Monumental’s plans in October, which at the time included as many as nine signs on the otherwise bare arena walls. The bill’s language says the signs could include “banners, digital displays, digital screens, digital video monitors, animated signs for commercial establishments located within the building, static canvas displays, projectors for projecting static and moving images onto the Verizon Center, interactive kiosks, and images projected onto the façade of the Verizon Center.”

Critics have invoked the prospect of Chinatown turning into Times Square. Those critics include the Downtown Neighborhood Association, which has come out against the plan, as the Examiner noted earlier this week.

Boe said there’s been much “misinformation” about the sign plans, including an e-mail from prolific local businessman David von Storch. He wrote to Vida members this week telling them that “one of Verizon Center’s planned Jumbotrons would literally cover the vast majority of VIDA’s leased space” and that the signs would “cast light 7 or 8 blocks down G Street, meaning they would be visible from the Treasury Building.”

“That’s not really true,” Boe said, adding that the new design won’t cover Vida’s windows at all.

“We think it’s in keeping with the neighborhood,” he added. “There’s a symbiotic relationship. ... We’re committed to the concept of a living downtown. We’re committed to maintain that environment. We don’t want to do any harm.”

By  |  05:39 PM ET, 01/19/2012

 
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