Proposed Freda Meat facility mixed-use project is all about the billboard

The long-standing Freda Meats factory on Front Street in Pennsport could become a a mixed-use project with 48 apartments, a ground-floor parking garage, 4 townhouses and 30,000 sq. ft of commercial space. While the concept of transforming this Pennsport block is huge in itself, the major part of the project is a 120 ft. tall LED billboard that would be placed on the roof, in replacement of the outdated and just-too-short to be seen from I-95 structure currently on top of the warehouse.


At Tuesday night’s Pennsport Civic Association meeting, the room of 50 area residents expressed concerns mainly about the massive billboard that they believe would affect the neighborhood’s view, even more so than the existing Chickie’s and Pete’s billboard. Throughout the presentation it was emphasized by the development team that without this billboard, the project will not happen.

The proposed development is a five-story structure that would take the place of the meat company’s former facility. Since there are still existing residential structures on the Howard Street-side of the facility, along with a pocket park on Reed Street, the developers plan to build around those things, with the addition of four townhouses with two car parking garages along Howard. The apartments with the ground floor parking garage would be accessible through an entrance on Front Street. The current plans include a mix of one bedroom, one bedroom with den and two bedroom, “market rate” apartments that would be between 1,000 and 1,300 sq. ft. There will be 48 parking spaces in the garage for the apartments, along with another 8 commercial parking spaces.


On the north-side of the development, there would be a separate building with 30,000 sq. ft. for commercial spaces. The 8,000 sq. ft. ground floor space could become an anchor location for a Memphis restaurant looking to come to Philadelphia (Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, could it be you?). Architect Brian Newswanger also mentioned the possibility of a gym or a grocery store for the ground floor space. The upper-level commercial spaces would be for use as offices.


The problem residents had with the project was not about the apartments, townhouses and commercial space this project would bring to the neighborhood in an attempt to “reconnect to the waterfront”, but instead was related to the “eyesore” on the rooftop. The current billboard on the Freda building is 58.5 ft. tall, so the proposed development would more than double the height to 120 ft. Instead of being just a plain billboard that is lit from the front and shines light in all directions, the proposal is for a LED, light-controlled sign. The v-shaped billboard is meant to shine light solely in the direction of I-95, but residents expressed their concerns about the brightness, the shadow cast of the billboard in the daylight and overall how this structure will be seen by most of South Philadelphia.

Why does the billboard matter so much? The owner of Keystone Outdoor Advertising also owns the building, making this project not only about the fixing of this block, but about updating the billboard and making it visible from I-95, since the highway’s sound barriers now block the sign’s visibility. If the billboard isn’t approved as part of the project, the development team stated that, “there is no Plan B” for the site.

13 thoughts on “Proposed Freda Meat facility mixed-use project is all about the billboard

  • December 21, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Nothing says classy like a flashing billboard.

  • December 21, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Call their bluff. Fight the eyesore of a billboard and hold it up. The guy who owns the building solely for the benefit of extending the billboard will get tired of owning a useless space.

    • December 22, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Especially as there is a glut of covered parking under 95 right across the street from this. If the only way they can provide parking is to have the billboard, get rid of both. Problem solved (although we all know the parking is a red herring).

  • December 22, 2016 at 10:26 am

    This billboard will be seen by half of South Philadelphia, from lower Center City through Society Hill, Queen Village all the way south to Oregon Ave.

  • December 22, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Never mind the billboard…look what they’re building!!! A modern chic building that doesn’t fit in with the surrounding landscape. It kills the historical and unique brick exterior that South Philly is famous for ! I will never understand these developers and hipsters, who move here bc they claim to love the culture and architecture…but, move in and immediately change it ??!!

    • December 23, 2016 at 10:20 am

      So you prefer the cinder-block warehouse? It’s an improvement, minus the billboard.

    • January 2, 2017 at 7:29 pm

      Not that the word has much specific meaning, but by absolutely no definition is a property developer a “hipster.”

    • January 5, 2017 at 9:41 am

      Also, the hipsters are not the ones buying the gross modern renos. Those would be the yuppies.

  • December 24, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    This is the billboard tail wagging the dog.

    There is no justification for a taller, digital billboard, either via variance or spot re-zoning. Either action would be subject to overturning on Court appeal. I am happy to help on this issue.

  • December 26, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Face it Pennsport the neighborhood is changing and it won’t be long till some developer buys the school at Moyamensing and Morris and tears it down to build townhouses and condos. Other schools have come down and you know this one will too.

    • January 5, 2017 at 9:43 am

      It would be sad, but tearing it down and building new homes is better than an abandoned school. How long is too long to wait for someone to reopen a school, or develop it without tearing down. Maybe Bok will inspire others, but I doubt it.

  • January 5, 2017 at 11:11 am

    how/who do we speak to in order to block this. This is no way in hell I want a 120 ft. flashing billboard in my neighborhood, and I’m sure other Pennporter’s feel the same way.

  • January 18, 2017 at 6:47 am

    A bright flashing billboard as high as a cell tower in that residential area would be the biggest distracting eyesore I could think of!

    You folks better coordinate your neighbors, have a signed petition ready, keep your voices heard through the Pennsport Civic Association (215-462-9764) and contact Scenic Philadelphia (fights illegal billboard blight) ASAP so this doesn’t get jammed down your throats.

    Scenic Philadelphia
    1504 South Street
    Philadelphia, PA 19146

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