Motorists will continue to see billboards for strip clubs and Lamar Outdoor Advertising will proceed with plans to construct a $1 million building on Exchange Street, in a settlement of a dispute between the city and the outdoor advertising company.
The company plans to to construct an 18,000-square-foot regional office on a vacant piece of city land for its 35 employees, relocating from its office on Maryland Street in a West Side residential neighborhood.
"Right now everything looks like it's up and running," Rick Dvorak, vice president and general manager for the Louisiana-based advertising company, said Friday.
The company's plan to relocate to the growing Exchange Street corridor stalled last year after city officials tried to pressure Lamar into removing ads along the Niagara Thruway for the strip clubs GTR and Club Chit Chat as a condition of approving the company's development plans.
Lamar wants to put a billboard on the Exchange Street property, which it could lease to help defray the cost of its new facility. The city's South Ellicott Plan does not include billboards as an approved property use.
Buffalo Community Development Commissioner Joseph Ryan initially suggested Lamar remove the adult entertainment signs in exchange for his support in placing a new billboard on Exchange Street.
Ryan has backed off his attempt to bring down the strip club advertisements because the city has no legal standing to regulate billboard content, he said.
Moreover, city attorneys have interpreted the development plan as allowing a billboard on the Exchange Street parcel because it is "incremental to Lamar's business," Ryan said.
Lamar's building plans will still need approval from the Buffalo Planning Board and the Common Council. The company is buying the land, between one and two acres, from the city for $49,000.
Ryan initially hesitated to endorse Lamar's plan out of concern other property owners will also seek an excepting to the signage rule.
Since Lamar is in the billboard business, a billboard at the regional office will be a function of their normal operation, he said in explaining his decision.
"We're hoping that they'll use it for public service, but we can't control what they do with it," Ryan said.
Dvorak said the company plans to initially use the board for its own corporate messages and advertisements, but will then likely try to lease the sign to clients.
Lamar took over Penn Advertising's office at 275 Maryland St. when it acquired Penn in 1997. The company wants to construct a new facility with a more functional design and better access to local highways.
"The plant will be much more efficient the way it's laid out," Dvorak said. "Our preference was to stay in the city, so I'm glad its worked out."
The office will be built next to a new American Anglian office which opened on Exchange Street last year. Exchange Street will also be the location of a new $12 million factory for Graphic Controls Corp.
"I think it's a good deal for Exchange Street. I'm very positive. We've had a lot of interest on Exchange Street lately," Ryan said.