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Big Digital Billboard Downtown Sparks Opposition
By Tim Omarzu
May 17, 2017
 
'Look Hoo's Up Downtown."
 
Those words, superimposed over a photo of an owl, and other images, including a smiley face encouraging people to enjoy the outdoors, greeted architect Jared Hueter one recent morning as he drove south on Market Street to his job.
 
They're posted on a brand-new, 600-square-foot digital billboard at Market and Sixth streets.
 
"I came in that morning and saw a 25-foot-tall smiley face telling me to enjoy the outdoors," Hueter said.
"I found that a little bit ironic: LED signs that tell you to enjoy the outdoors - while blocking your view of the outdoors."
 
Hueter is one of a number of Chattanoogans who aren't happy with a 25-foot-tall, 24-foot-wide digital billboard that Fairway Outdoor Advertising put up about two weeks ago in the heart of downtown.
 
Critics say the brightly flashing sign isn't appropriate - especially since the downtown has been designated for years as a scenic area where no new billboards are allowed.
 
"No, no, no, no. That's a definite no," said Catalina Mahler Tuesday afternoon as she crossed Market Street after having lunch with co-workers. "It's going to look like the Strip in Vegas."
 
Melanie Silva, vice president of sales at SmartFurniture across the street from the billboard, calls it the "Enormotron."
 
"I was so excited when they were taking down the old billboard - then they put that thing up," said Silva, who's from Hawaii, where billboards aren't allowed because of that state's natural beauty.
 
Not everyone objects to the new sign.
 
"I think it's cool," said Taylor Pack, an employee of Chattanooga Ducks, a sightseeing tour business located directly under the new billboard. "It caught my attention."
 
And Scott LaFoy, the billboard company's area general manager, said the digital billboard is grandfathered in inside the downtown scenic area, because it's an upgrade of a double-decker billboard that's been there since at least the 1970s.
 
The city issued a permit for what LaFoy called a "state of the art" sign, which he hasn't heard any complaints about.
 
"The scenic guidelines do not preclude the modernization of an existing sign," he said. "Anytime something different is done, somebody's going to complain about it. We have had no complaints. Our advertisers love it."
 
'Asset for downtown? Hell, no'
 
But Allen McCallie, a longtime Chattanooga lawyer who worked for three years helping to draft the city's sign ordinance in the 1980s, says that Fairway's new digital billboard doesn't belong downtown.
 
State law may say something different, he said, but "it is completely against the language and the spirit of the sign ordinance in Chattanooga."
 
City Council appointed the group that wrote the sign ordinance partly because there were so many signs on wheels outside businesses 30 years ago, McCallie said.
 
"The city was covered up with portable signs. We used to have hundreds of those all over town," he said.
 
"There was a general perception at that time that this beautiful place that we live in was becoming overwhelmed with signs of all types. Everybody felt that Chattanooga - as the Scenic City of the South - needed to do something."
 
Compromises were made with the sign industry, he said. For example, there was an understanding that billboards would go away over time. A billboard used to sit atop the Flatiron Building at Georgia and McCallie avenues, he said, but it got taken down - forever - when the Flatiron Building changed hands.
 
"They could not go back today and put another billboard up," McCallie said.
 
So he doesn't understand how Fairway Outdoors was able to install a completely new digital billboard.
 
"You won't find anything in this ordinance saying that if you take a sign down you can replace it with a modern, new electric sign," McCallie said. "Forget all the legal mumbo jumbo. Is that an asset for downtown Chattanooga? Hell no."
 
River City Co. opposed
 
The River City Co., a private nonprofit organization whose mission is to revitalize downtown, also opposes the new sign.
 
"From our perspective, there's a reason why downtown Chattanooga was classified as a scenic zone: we wanted to keep our downtown scenic and inviting," spokeswoman Amy Donahue said.
 
It's taken 30 years of hard work to revitalize downtown, she said.
 
"We feel strongly that that billboard undermines the hard work of everyone in our community," Donahue said.
 
LaFoy disagrees.
 
"I think it [builds] on the work being done downtown," he said, comparing it to The Nashville Sign, a "much, much larger" digital billboard at Broadway and West End Avenue in Nashville.
 
"Nashville's progressive, and this is state-of-the-art advertising," said LaFoy, whose company was in the running Tuesday for an Obie award from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America for Fairway's 60 black-and-white billboards here with the single word "Ubiquitous" that was later revealed to be part of Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke and a Song" summer campaign.
 
iHeartExtensions: More Time Given For Notes Swaps
By Adam Jacobson
May 25, 2017
 
On Wednesday, March 15, iHeartCommunications engaged in a somewhat complex series of private offers to its bondholders.
 
The over-arching entity for publicly traded iHeartMedia and CC Outdoor Holdings initiated a plan that would effectively see a note swap ... and a possible separation of iHeartMedia and CC Outdoor into two fully distinct and independently owned-and-operated companies.
 
Specifically, holders of its "Five Series of Priority Guarantee Notes" and its Senior Notes Due 2021 were called on to turn in those notes, and exchange them for new securities in connection with "a proposed global restructuring of its indebtedness."
 
How's that going? Not so good.
 
iHeart on Thursday morning (5/25) announced that it's extending once again the private exchange offers.
 
The exchange offers and the consent solicitations for each issue of existing notes were originally set to expire at 5pm Eastern on April 14. Extensions moved that date to May 26.
 
Now, the expiration is set for 5pm Eastern on June 9 for both the exchange offers and consent solicitations, and for the withdrawal of tendered existing notes in the exchange offers and the revocation of consents in the consent solicitations.
 
Why has iHeart extended the expiry date by nearly two months?
 
The company is continuing discussions with note holders regarding the terms of the exchange offers, iHeart says.
 
It's also still in discussions with lenders under its Term Loan D and Term Loan E facilities.
 
Those discussions don't appear to be going in iHeart's favor. As of 5pm Wednesday (5/24), an aggregate amount of approximately $47.1 million of the existing notes had been tendered into the exchange offers.
 
Translation: Just 0.6% of the outstanding existing notes had been tendered some five weeks after the initial expiration date.
 
What will come of the ongoing discussions is paramount to iHeart's success in completing the exchange offers and consent solicitations, which have not been amended.
 
With no changes to the plan set for on April 14, will bondholders eventually capitulate, or will iHeart have no choices but to sweeten the offer if not abandon it altogether?
 
Share of IHRT, which trades on the OTC Pink Sheet, are unchanged at $2.15 as of 12:35pm Eastern on Thursday.

State Rep. Hanes Works on Creation of Statewide Emergency Messaging System
By Staff Writer
May 18, 2017
 
SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
 
Rep. Edward Hanes, in conjunction with Rep. David Lewis, Rep. Jason Saine, Rep. Ken Goodman, introduced legislation that would establish a public-private partnership between the outdoor advertising industry and the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety, Secretary of State, Highway Patrol, North Carolina Center for Missing Persons, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
 
House Bill 851 Revisions to Outdoor Advertising Laws was filed in the House and will be referred to a House Committee.
 
The creation of this partnership will provide a state-of-the-art public communication network dedicated to providing real-time information to motorists for an array of time-sensitive urgent messages, such as Amber alerts, silver alerts, wildfire information, hurricane evacuation notices as well as road closures and tornado alerts.
 
"We are excited about the various opportunities digital networks will provide for the communities we serve," explained Bobby Soule, president of the North Carolina Outdoor Advertising Association.  "In addition to providing a platform for critical emergency messaging, including Amber Alerts and severe weather information, digital billboards also provide local businesses the opportunity to change their advertising messages throughout the day in an incredibly cost effective manner."
 
Digital billboards are a globally accepted advertising technology that engages travelers with digitized messages.
 
Enhanced digital structures provide a modern and aesthetically pleasing community design.  This legislation will also increase the taxes and fees billboard companies pay to the State of North Carolina as well as the counties where digital conversions are implemented.
 
"I'm pleased to introduce legislation that enables outdoor advertising to move into the 21st century," Rep. David Lewis said.  "In addition to the benefits to the local economy, we're improving our ability to communicate with the traveling public during emergencies. I firmly believe that had this law been in place last year it would have provided another tool for North Carolina Emergency Management to communicate with people during Hurricane Matthew.
 
Bye-bye, Billboard: Longtime Fixture by the Gervais Street Bridge is Coming Down
The State
By Tim Dominick
May 18, 2017
 
Columbia, SC- You know when you drive across the Gervais Street bridge into Columbia, admiring the skyline" Or walking along the r4iverwlk, just trying to get that iconic Instagram shot of the bridge crossing the Congaree?
 
But what's that lurking in the corner of your pristine view? A billboard.
 
Well. Photographers of Columbia: Rejoice! That billboard is coming down-eventually.
 
The city, which owns the island in the river on which the billboard sits, is working with Lamar Advertising, the owner of th billboard, to have it removed.
 
"You're coming into Columbia or sitting at Terra (in West Columbia) having a meal, and you look at the skyline and see a billboard. It's just a blight on a scenic river," City Councilman Howard Duvall said.
 
It has irked him for years, he said.
 
"It is in the wrong place."
 
But it's been there since at least the 1940's, said Scott Shockley, vice president and territory manager for Lamar.
 
"It's literally been part of the Columbia skyline for six or seven decades," Shockley said. "Thinking of the iconic culture of a lot of American cities-billboards have been a part of that landscape for decades."
 
Sometime after the property was transferred to the city from SCANA Corp. in the early 2000's, Lamar's lease on the property-which was also transferred to the city from SCANA- ran out.
 
Only recently did the city notice that lapsed lease, Duvall said. About a month ago, the city contacted Lamar about removing the billboard, Shockley said.
 
It's just one of many Kit Smith would like to see come down.
 
" A lot of people don't think this is a "serious" issue", said Smith, a community activist and former Richland County Council member. "But signs degrade neighborhoods, and I think it's important to clean up the city."
 
She and another local neighborhood leader have been mapping the city's billboards, noting the majority of them cluster near "historically more deprived neighborhoods."
 
The corridor near the intersection of Gervais and Millwood Avenue, near the Lyon Street and MLK Park neighborhoods, is particularly crowded with signs, Smith said.
 
But the one by the Gervais Street bridge troubles her because the bridge is an "icon of our city," she said.
 
When the billboard actually will come down is not clear.
 
Accessing the site will be difficult because it's on the island, assistant city manager Missy Gentry said.
 
And besides the physical challenge of removal, the city and Lamar are looking for an alternative site for Lamar or erect a new billboard in lieu of the one by the bridge, Gentry said.
 
The billboard couldn't be gone soon enough for Duvall.
 
"Today would be fine," he said. "I'd take my power saw out there and cut it down."