John Heller, Post-GazetteLooking down North Avenue at the Garden Theatre near Federal Street on the North Side. Neighbors are already lining up to offer suggestions for a new message on the marquee now that the former porn theater is closed awaiting its next incarnation.
The marquee of the Garden Theatre awaits a new message, and a call for ideas yesterday prompted a flurry of e-mails from North Siders to re-brand the former porn theater on North Avenue.
After getting the keys at its closing Monday, the Urban Redevelopment Authority put out the call for a catchy phrase to attract attention from a buyer.
The idea came from the mayor's office "to get something clever up there," said Julie Deseyn, a URA spokesman. The URA's Federal-North project manager Angelo Taranto threw out a few of his own to fuel creative juices; the city expects to choose the most compelling after a noon deadline today.
Yesterday, crews removed the long-running, four-line ditty "ADULT ENTERTAINMENT, ALL NEW SHOW WED & SUN, OPEN 9 AM, CONTINUOUS ALL DAY."
Rebecca Davidson-Wagner, executive director of the Central Northside Neighborhood Council, said a fun marquee slogan can not only intrigue interested buyers but "celebrate the end of a long struggle."
"We want to use it as an opportunity to advertise that we are accepting development proposals," said Mr. Taranto.
The URA is marketing the theater and 11 other properties it invested in as the benefactor agency for redevelopment of the Federal Street and North Avenue corridors. The Garden, the last property it secured, has been blamed by many stakeholders for holding up redevelopment of the blighted intersection for so long.
After six years of lawsuits and appeals, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in late December that the URA did not violate the theater's free speech in efforts to seize it through eminent domain. In February, the URA announced it had reached agreement to buy the theater for $1.1 million.
Although the slogan pitch went out to North Siders, anyone may vote on an existing slogan or suggest one by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The URA's ideas, credited to Mr. Taranto, include, "Plant your ideas here," "X no longer marks the spot," "Lights Camera Action" and "Playing now: A New Day.".....
A few slogans from the neighborhood include, "Out of the red light, back into the limelight," "Son of Allegheny City," "We're Coming Back!" "Grow the New Garden," and "The Garden Has Been Tilled; Plant A New Seed Today!"
The request for proposals has been "on the street for awhile," said Ms. Deseyn. "We have had people look at the other buildings, but we've not had much feedback yet [on the Garden]. Now that we can show it, there will be a lot more interest."
Ms. Deseyn said Quantum Theater is interested in using the theater for a production in the summer. "We're hopeful they'll think the space is OK and that we'll have time" to get it in shape.
Mr. Taranto said interested developers will be shown through the building as soon as consultants can assess the building's soundness, the content and value of its interior assets and clear debris.
For more information, visit the URA's web site at www.ura.org
Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1626.