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November 28, 2021
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North Harbor ASSC

September 29, 2021
North Harbor Area of Special Sign Control Boundary in Downtown Baltimore

Downtown Partnership of Baltimore is sponsoring the North Harbor ASSC (Area of Special Sign Control) legislation and Planning Commission Boundary approval for the area north of the Inner Harbor, along Pratt Street North to Baltimore Street, from President Street to Howard Street.

Downtown Partnership has engaged over 40 community leaders, residents, City Council Members, and property owners to inform this process. Additionally, the sign district boundaries and draft sign plan are available here for review.

Click here for draft sign plan and constituent outreach plan

North Harbor ASSC FAQs

What is an area of special sign control?
It’s a provision allowed under Title 17, which in this case is being used to allow large format signage to be installed within the boundary area, not to exceed the maximum allowed signage area as designated by the Planning Department.

What is the timeline to create and activate the district?
The District boundaries have been reviewed by the Planning Department on and were approved by City Council on October 18th.

What is the Baltimore North Harbor Area of Special Sign Control?
The NoHa ASSC is an outdoor media powered project for an area of downtown that will create light, vitality and activity and provide a massive platform for Baltimore’s local art community, small businesses, and community focused organizations.

How is this signage different from typical billboards?
DPOB is requiring all media companies participating in the District to live up to a far higher standard of
community benefits and responsiveness than any other signs in the City.

  • Media companies will grant DPOB 15-20% of all LED time for local art and civic promotion.
  • Media companies will adhere to stringent repair and light mitigation standards.
  • District signs must be aesthetically superior in the judgment of DPOB and its committee of
    stakeholders and arts groups.
  • Media companies will supply an architectural analysis showing how the signs fit in architecturally
    with the building and surrounding area.
  • Media companies will support Baltimore’s efforts to attract national and international events
    downtown by agreeing to work with the City on attracting such events through special sign
    promotions.

Update on Light Pollution Concerns

Downtown Partnership is looking into creative ways to offset light pollution and looking into becoming carbon neutral thought carbon tax credits. The ASSC offers real opportunity for light and vibrancy at the street level, not for rooftop viewing. We are exploring opportunities to be very intentional and thoughtful in this area. All Baltimore signs will have dimming sensors that adjust to the time of day to soften brightness at appropriate times. Additionally, all signs will be manually dimmable by the operator. Each operator will provide a lighting study as part of the approval process to demonstrate the digital signs do not significantly increase ambient light levels. Sign operators will be required respond to resident complaints regarding brightness within 48 hours. Each sign will operate using the most efficient clean energy tier available in market.

How will the district be funded?

The District will be privately funded. No public money or taxes will be required for the District. Additionally, a revenue share from District commercial signage will be reinvested by DPOB into the District for the betterment of the local community.

What are the economic impacts of the district?

The District will provide an expansive digital platform for local artists to promote their work to locals and tourists. The District will benefit downtown landlords through a lease based revenue stream, potentially increasing property values and the City’s downtown tax base

What is the timeline to create and activate the district?

The District boundaries were approved by City council and sign by the Mayor on October 18th. The District could launch within six months from approval, but only after the Sign Plan is approved by the Planning Commission. After approval from the Planning Commission, only properties included in the approved sign plan can seek permits. each property owner would have to seek individual permits for each sign prior to construction.

Who will manage the District?

The district will be managed and subsidized by DPOB (DPOB’s revenue share will not cover program costs). District artwork and sign structures will be reviewed by a committee of downtown stakeholders and community groups. Further, a local advisory board composed of residents, downtown stakeholders and arts groups will review and make recommendations related to all District sign structures and artwork to ensure that the signage and art meets appropriate public interests and standards.

Can residents give input on the District?

Residents will serve on the advisory board and DPOB has set up a contact process whereby residents can offer input and concerns directly to DPOB. Residents can also reach out to DPOB or Planning directly with questions or concerns about the sign plan, content, etc.

Why the Name ‘North Harbor’?

The name is a geographic marker. The boundaries are North of the Harbor. This is not a neighborhood name.

What arts groups will the District support?

The District is being set up to directly support Baltimore’s Arts & Entertainment Districts through Downtown Partnership’s services agreements with media companies. Under this plan, there will be significant financial support for each A&E District and support for artists to have work featured on the signs.

Will Baltimore City make any revenue?

Baltimore city will make money off the already-existing Billboard Tax. Additionally, three city-owned properties are included in the sign plan in after sent for BID and a healthy procurement process, stand to make revenue as a landlord for digital billboards on those properties.

Are these signs safe for cars and pedestrians?

The Department of Transportation is required to provide findings of fact on this concern to the Planning Department and Planning Commission. It’s not the intent of property owners or Downtown Partnership to create a program that would cause safety issues for drivers or pedestrians. Studies show the larger danger to both is cell phone use.

Who can I contact for more information?
For media inquiries, contact Mike Evitts, mevitts@dpob.org.
For the Department of Planning related questions or feedback, contact Caitlin Audette, caitlin.Audette@baltimorecity.gov.
For general questions about the program or for media companies / advertising questions, contact Lauren Hamilton, Lhamilton@dpob.org.

Upcoming Community Input Meeting Schedule

  • October 28, 5:30 to 7:00 PM – Apartments at Charles Plaza (Charles Towers, Park Charles, 39 W. Lex)
  • October 29 – City Center Residents Association (3rd meeting)
  • November 1, 6:00 to 7:30 PM – The Atrium apartments
  • November 2 – 414 Water Street Condos
  • November 3, 5:30 to 7:30 PM – 414 Light Street
  • November 10, 12:00 – 1:00 PM – VIRTUAL COMMUNITY INPUT MEETING – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – REGISTER HERE
  • November 11, 5:30 to 7:30 – Downtown Dialogue at Center for Architecture & Design