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D.C. Council to consider new Verizon Center signs

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A proposal to add signs to the Verizon Center's exterior is set to get a long-delayed hearing before the D.C. Council, inching the city toward a plan that has long angered the surrounding community.

Ted Leonsis and his company, Monumental Sports and Entertainment, have been pressing city officials for months to sign off on the plan to permit the signage.

Under the measure lawmakers are scheduled to weigh Wednesday, the complex could apply to add up to nine graphics to the arena's facade. The legislation would require that the images, which could be digital and animated, not impair drivers on nearby streets or "adversely impact the character or integrity of the Verizon Center."

Monumental's plans call for a wraparound sign at the corner of Seventh and F streets, digital signage along Seventh Street and above the entrance to Metro and the removal of the marquee along Seventh Street.

Randall Boe, Monumental's executive vice president, said the displays would reduce the amount of light currently

emitted and total signage.

"If it's not as bright, if it's more aesthetically appealing, if it helps the vibrancy of what has become Washington's sports and entertainment district, I'm not sure what the argument is on the other side," Boe said.

Neighbors initially feared the signs would overwhelm the area, and a January hearing about the proposal was scrapped at Monumental's request so the company could try to address those concerns.

Months of outreach and redrawn plans yielded progress but not a complete resolution.

"Almost everyone would give Monumental Sports kudos for their efforts in trying to meet the concerns that have been expressed," said Jo-Ann Neuhaus, the executive director of the Penn Quarter Neighborhood Association, which has not taken a position on the signs. "Regardless of that, I think some are opposed to it."

Much of the remaining opposition, Neuhaus said, stems from Monumental pursuing a legislative fix while a mayoral panel is considering guidelines for signage in the District.

"Some are opposed to it on a procedural basis," Neuhaus said.

Boe said Verizon Center officials back the mayor's plan to draft rules, and they merely want to guarantee they can ultimately seek permits for signage.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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