By Adam Swift
A new digital billboard run in conjunction by the Sons of Divine Providence and private company Maverick Media would replace two older, rundown billboards on the McClellan Highway and be a revenue source for the Sons and the Madonna, Queen of the Universe Shrine.
“The electronic billboard would serve multiple purposes,” said attorney Jeff Turco, representing the Sons of Divine Providence. “One, it would serve the needs of the church on the hill, and more importantly, in these economic times, it would be a source of revenue for the Shrine. The last few years with Covid have done a number on all kinds of nonprofits.”
With the financial costs to run the shrine increasing, the leaders of the religious order have looked at ways to maximize its resources and create revenue to help sustain the Shrine, Turco said.
The billboard itself would have a maximum height of 60 feet, including the support columns, and would be lower than the top of the hill.
“Nobody who lives on the hill would see the sign or lights from the sign from their residences,” said Turco. The two-sided billboard would consist of a special kind of lights that deflect light downward.
Over $150,000 would also be budgeted toward landscaping and monitoring of the area of the hill.
“We think this is a real win-win for everybody in the area and it creates a revenue source,” said Turco. “It maximizes the land the Fathers committed to preserving as a non-developable site, while also getting their message across.”
Maverick Media will cover much of the cost of actually constructing the billboard as well as procuring advertising for the billboard. Turco said the advertising will include a mix of messages promoting the Shrine, as well as outside advertising that is consistent with the values of the Sons of Divine Providence.
A number of area residents spoke in favor of construction of the new billboard, with some noting that it would be an upgrade to the current condition of the hill. However, one resident said the current condition of the hill near the iconic cross on the hill is currently a mess, and that the Sons of Divine Providence should be doing a better job of maintaining the area now.
“I think the fact that 200 residents of the area wrote letters in support of the project shows the respect for which the Fathers of the Shrine have for the people on the hill,” said Turco.
As part of the project, Turco said there will be additional revenue and additional obligations to keep the area well maintained.
The project will be before the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council at a future meeting with some more detailed renderings and to address any additional concerns before the council takes a vote to recommend the project to the city’s zoning board.