Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Too garish for the Park?

The refined sensibilities of some Madison Park residents have been sorely tested by the oversize neon sign installed earlier this month by “Washington’s Newest Bank” (aka Chase Manhattan). Believing that the New York-based bank has violated our community’s tasteful-sign standards, they reportedly took their complaints directly to Chase last week, requesting that the sign be downsized and possibly de-neoned. The issue was important enough to be discussed at the Madison Park Community Council meeting this week, with the decision taken to formalize a request that Chase cease and desist.

Chase’s offense was also discussed at the Madison Park Business Association meeting today. It is the MPBA which has the sign standard of which I am told Chase is clearly in violation. However, the standard is a voluntary one; in other words, enforceable only through community pressure.

For awhile this afternoon it looked as though the complaints were being heeded. A sign-company truck rolled up to the branch, the offending sign was removed, and for a brief moment some had hope that a New York bank could actually react to our community’s input.

However, it was not to be. A new metal facing was installed above the branch to cover the bricks (which had been scarred previously by WaMu’s awning), and the offending sign was promptly reinstalled. In fact, the sign now stands out even more than it did before.

It remains to be seen whether Chase will eventually back down, but there is at least one precedent for a big bank responding to the community’s complaints. According to MPBA member Lola McKee (Madison Park Hardware), many years ago Bank of America put up an offending sign but reversed course after the violation was pointed out.

Chase’s sign is not the only one in the neighborhood that is legal under City code but still in violation of the MPBA standard. Also on the blacklist is the new Fitness Together sign, next to Bing’s.

For some, the sign issue may seem like a pretty unimportant battle to occupy people’s time. But for others, such as Council President Ken Myrabo, taking a stand has to do with preserving the character of the neighborhood and keeping our little piece of Madison Street from becoming another Lake City Way. Now that’s a cause a lot of us can get behind.

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