Wednesday morning, the Birmingham Design Review Committee voted 7-0 to disapprove the installation of two static vinyl signs over the electronic sign atop Two North Twentieth. Committee chair Sam Frazier recused himself from the case and the vote. The sign had been a late addition to the committee’s March 9 agenda and held over to give them an opportunity to review the proposal.
Prior to this morning’s vote, the issue of what constituted an alteration to the message board originally installed in 1971 in honor of the city’s centennial appeared to be front and center.
Chervis Isom, representing the John Hand Condo Owners Association, suggested the vinyl signs advertising Pepsi placed over the structure more than two years ago was “a major alteration to the original, non-conforming sign.”
“What they did was radically change the character of the sign. They changed it from a message board to a billboard with a static sign,” said Isom.
“There were messages of public service all day long, and it didn’t operate at night. This thing has spotlights on it. That’s a major alteration as far as I’m concerned,” he continued.
Several committee members asked for clarification as to what constitutes an alteration. There was also a suggestion a plan be submitted outlining how and when the sign would be restored.
Richard Mauk, serving as committee chair for the case, asked Alton Parker of Spain & Gillion if exterior lights were added to the existing structure in order to accommodate the installation of the Pepsi signs. Parker said he could not say when they were added. Mauk later asked if there were any plans to restore the sign to its original usage (as was the understanding when the previous proposal was originally presented by its then owner, Harbert Realty). Parker and 84 Outdoor general counsel Cheri Bomar informed the committee there were no plans to restore the sign.
UAB has contracted to pay $300,000 to design and install a double-sided sign for a period of one year with the option to extend the lease period.
The motion for disapproval on the grounds a static billboard “is an inappropriate solution to a historic sign.” was made by committee member Don Cosper after a 15-minute executive session with Jim Stanley from the city’s legal department.
There is no word as to whether or not any additional legal action will take place. The cease and desist originally sent to 84 Outdoor is said to still be in effect.