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Neighborhood Association Left In the Dark Over Expansion of Dynamically Lit Billboards in Downtown Minneapolis

The Minneapolis City Council is deep into discussions about whether or not to allow more “dynamically lit billboards” in the heart of the city.

These types of billboards are currently limited to parts of Hennepin Avenue, the U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Target Center. With Super Bowl 52 just around the corner, businesses hoping to advertise during one of the busiest stretches in recent Minnesota memory are hoping to cash in with additional billboard space. However, it’s impossible to overlook the fact that the neighborhood association was left in the dark on the discussions around this potential change to the city’s skyline until very recently.

“This has been in the cooker since July of 2016,” said attorney and chair of the downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association Joe Tamburino. “No one, absolutely no one has notified us.”

This ordinance, introduced by Councilmember Abdi Warsame, will allow billboards to be erected on the west side of Park Avenue from Fourth Street South to Sixth Street South and on the south side of Sixth Street South.

“If this passes, this is Pottersville from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ because you are going to have flashing signs saying ‘drink liquor’ or ‘go to this go-go club’ or something like that. It is not going to be good for our neighborhood,” said Tamburino.

An estimated one million people are expected to travel to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl, but while these visitors may provide a valuable short-term economic boom, the potential existence of these billboards is far from temporary.

“It’s not just the Super Bowl,” Tamburino said. “As soon as you change this zoning, it’s done. It is forever changed, which means that our neighborhood will have to sustain all of this advertising … When Guns N’ Roses, Justin Bieber, X Games whoever it is comes to the stadium, there go the billboards again and the spotlights.”

The neighborhood association holds their first community meeting of 2018 on January 2, where they plan to discuss the ordinance. Tamburino expressed his hope that the members will be able to express their concerns to the planning commission before any final vote is held.

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