Active, vibrant cities the world over have billboards and advertisements. But in Detroit, almost all the ones you’ve seen pop up over the last few years? Turns out they’re illegal, according to city code.
And that’s especially ridiculous in Detroit’s core business district.
If you didn’t know, there’s a prohibition in the city of Detroit against large advertising signs, billboards and painted wall graphics basically anywhere from Grand Boulevard to the Detroit River.
Opponents of these big ads talk about them being “a big money business” that “somebody should stop.” In this case, that’s a disturbing point of view.
The signs can bring in revenue, according to folks we talked to, between $5,000 and $11,000 per month, similar to what has been reported elsewhere. That can be a significant source of revenue for building owners, many of remember when nobody wanted to be part of anything Detroit.
Rules like this show that although the city of Detroit has become more business-friendly, it still has a long way to go before resembling a normal environment.
What’s the harm in a giant Andre Drummond being visible on what is otherwise a blank wall? Or a Comcast ad that helps support the work of the Detroit Opera House on a wall that would otherwise be empty?
It’s still not easy to make it financially in Detroit, especially for smaller players.
Not to mention, in the last couple of decades we’ve had a demolition derby where we hit the destruct button on buildings that represent a century’s worth of history. It’s part of why we have a bunch of blank walls that used to be concealed by other buildings.
And now the city government is going to make sure we and our visitors stare at those failures, day after day.
We should put in common sense provisions like a license fee and approval process to make sure guidelines of decency and taste are met. No one is arguing it should be the wild west.
But tasteful signs add to the vibe that this is a bustling downtown and help fill out the streetscape. They help keep the economic engine humming.
The city is supposed to begin enforcing the ban at the end of this year. The city council and the mayor should do fast-track reforms before that happens.