Downtown’s Jaunty Hat, and other Good Things About Zoning

Kudos to Rugby Realty, C&C Lighting Factory and the rest of the gang, which surprised all of Pittsburgh all of a sudden with an endearingly lovely piece of skyline artwork.

The standard colors are a modest, precocious spectrum of pastel; it distracts the eye pleasantly from the assertively gothic UPMC, Federated Investors and other corporate insignias surrounding it from many vantages, it expands upon a fundamentally interesting public service in forecasting weather; and we can experiment and play with it.

The Comet assumes that in the morass of City of Pittsburgh zoning classifications, the new display is classified or would be classified as “art” — and is simply an expansion and enhancement of a pre-existing and conforming art use, or a pre-existing legal nonconforming use that is art or arty enough. Maybe we shouldn’t assume, but it seems likely.

The tricky thing about these lighting projects is, there is a history of them being used by the electronic advertising and signage industries as legal and quasi-legal “precedent.” The City Zoning Code is a list of rules, but it’s not perfect and it has to be interpreted by a Zoning Board, if not actual judges. Mark my words — industry will one day soon point to that corner of Downtown and assert that it already is comfortable with digitally delivered excitement and a “Times Square” affect, and claim a right that might otherwise be forbidden or otherwise dependent.

If the industry get an edge because of this Gulf Tower project, good for them. Nice field goal. There continue to be enough distinctions between artwork, advertising signs, business identification signs and “electronic message signs” in the code to prevent mutually assured personal mental hygiene and good taste meltdown — and again, C&C’s vision turned out to be thoughtful and stylishly transcendent.

I still have my fingers crossed that the Gulf Tower’s Peregrine falcons will find a comfortable home elsewhere in the Golden Triangle. We are trying to retain a core of hip young families in the area! Perhaps Buncher Co. might be prevailed upon to install a cavernous perch, as it may have to rotate and pile its vision high up onto its side.

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