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Bright idea gets a dim view from center tenants


August 18, 2007

Michael Pollack may have found a perfectly legal way to promote a movie theater in his shopping center, but some of the other center tenants apparently think he’s gone too far.

In recent weeks, a sign company hired by the high-profile, Mesa-based developer installed a Las Vegas-style digital signboard on both the Elliot and McClintock road sides of the center, which is located on the southeast corner of the intersection.

The brilliantly lighted sign, which attracts the attention of passing motorists both day and night,  is a constantly changing marquee that flashes the names of films currently being shown, in some cases with accompanying graphics.

Barb Carter, a member of the Tempe City Council which approved modifications to the city’s then 35-year-old sign ordinance last year, says she and others on the council never foresaw this type of usage.

And, she says, some of the other center tenants didn’t see it coming either.

“I don’t think they know why he gets that just for the movie theater and why he won’t add a crawler (an additional line of information) about (their business),” Carter said.

Although the business community had been clamoring for a thorough restudy of the city’s sign regulations, the changes that ultimately were approved in 2006 seemed to allow so-called monument signs only for certain applications.

Those exceptions included churches, several of which have recently installed digitized monument signs, and schools, such as Corona del Sol High School, which has a digital marquee at Rural and Knox roads.

Another allowance was made for movie houses, although Carter says she and other council members at the time thought of only one theater outside the downtown area that might be interested.

That’s where Pollack found an opportunity and took advantage of it, she says.

Now, says Carter, it’s probably too late to fix the problem.

“I understand the concern of the businesses in the center,” she said. “Unfortunately, the ordinance does not give them the ability to advertise (with similar signage).”

While Carter feels that the City Council’s approval of  new sign regulations was justified, officials don’t want Tempe to go the way of at least one neighbor.

“We don’t want to look like Mesa,” she said. “Even the business owners don’t want that.”


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