Pepsi sign causes controversy

Birmingham's newest sign, called by some its newest eyesore lit sky starting this evening. It's not what the sign says but what it looks like that has some in the magic city up in arms. Anyone in Railroad Park can't miss the new Pepsi sign atop the 17 story two north twentieth building.

"When I was driving into downtown over the mountain the other day it was just like gaudy and in your face," said Joseph Baker.

Baker is the founder of I Believe in Birmingham, a group that involves itself with social issues throughout the city. {}{}{} "Our stance is that good urban design is an important aspects of building a good city," he said.

Baker and several members of his organization feel the large blue Pepsi sign was done in poor taste. The 176 by 57 foot vinyl sign sits atop the Two North Twentieth building, and can be seen from several angles when coming into downtown. Baker calls{} it down right ugly. "Just having a big bland, generic advertisement like that is not really fitting with where design is going in downtown," he said.

It's not just the aesthetics that bothers baker and his group. It's how the sign came to be.

The installation of the sign happened without approval from Birmingham's Design Review Committee - a panel that oversees such changes. In fact, Harbert Reality, the company that owns the sign, had been denied permission to install similar Pepsi signs in the past.

Harbert continued to get the red light, until it claims to have found out that the company does not need permission from the design review committee because of the sign's dimensions. {}{}{}{} "We have a corporate entity that is insisting that they don't have to follow the same rules as everyone else and they are trying to cite a legal loophole," said Baker.

Jim Lee is CEO of Buffalo Rock Company, a supplier of Pepsi products and one of the companies leasing the sign. Last week he weighed in on the issue. "You're going to be able to see it all the time, you're not going to have to worry about lights going out. Southern original is part of our home marketing strategy and marketing brand, and our southern locations, so it's a perfect tie in," said Lee.{}{}