Pittsburgh-owned property may carry advertising

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If all goes as planned, a range of Pittsburgh city properties and assets -- from public works uniforms to parking meters, park pavilions and vehicles -- will become venues for advertisements from private companies.

Pittsburgh City Council passed legislation Tuesday that will create the Market Based Revenue Opportunities program, which the city expects will bring in around a half-million dollars, revenue that has already been written into this year's budget.

Besides allowing advertisements on city property, the legislation will also enable the city to partner with private companies in other arrangements. Councilman Bill Peduto said it could also open up council chambers, for example, to be used for private events. A corporation could sponsor the restoration of a closed city pool, he suggested.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who supported the legislation, proposed attracting a vendor to supply recycling bins for the city's business districts that could bear the vendor's name. Other possibilities include sponsorship of city events and leasing of city facilities to phone companies for cell towers, an arrangement that has been tested in other cities.

The bill, sponsored by Mr. Peduto, was introduced before council in July, but the concept has been kicked around since 2006, when Mr. Ravenstahl, then a council president, created a task force to explore the idea along with Mr. Peduto and Councilman Jim Motznik.

The version passed by council Tuesday includes a number of restrictions on what can be advertised, where it can be advertised and for how long. Public safety vehicles and uniforms, the exterior of city buildings, council chambers, the mayor's office and permanent advertisements in city parks are specifically prohibited. Baseball fields and scoreboards used by youth leagues are also off-limits since those spaces are used to generate ad revenue for the leagues themselves. There are content restrictions as well: no political ads, or ads for alcohol, tobacco, firearms or sexually oriented businesses will be allowed.

It also requires council to put in place design standards before moving forward with contracts. The design standards will address how large advertisements can be and what fonts can be used, among other things.

The legislation requires companies to participate in competitive bidding processes, and contracts over $100,000 will have to be approved by city council. The Active Network, a consultant, will help the city draw clients and take a cut of the revenue.

One company that has already approached the city is ProxCity, which is piloting location-based smartphone marketing. The company has an app that knows when a user enters an "impact zone," for example, Point State Park. It then messages coupons for nearby businesses.

Bob DiGioia, the founder of the Monroeville-based company, said the legislation will allow him to partner with the city to create impact zones in the city's parks so that those with smartphones can read about the park's history and learn about city events, along with getting special deals and coupons from nearby businesses.

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Moriah Balingit: 412-263-2533, mbalingit@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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