4:32 a.m., May 22
Downtown Billboard Promoter Hires Well-Connected Lobbyists
A former aide to the owner of the Denver Nuggets has been quietly pitching the idea of turning part of downtown San Diego into a giant "entertainment district," complete with massive, Times Square-style animated advertising signs, video screens, and billboards.
According to a presentation on his company's website, David Ehrlich, principal of FinWater Advisors in Denver, wants to "create a public-private partnership to develop the legal/political environment to make the district a reality."
Touting the plan as "a revitalized neighborhood powered by outdoor media...[not] a sign district," Ehrlich's company estimates annual gross revenue of $5 million by the third year of the project, with a share of the money to go to city hall and downtown property owners.
The city's decades-old billboard ordinance currently prohibits construction of any new "off premise" signs and would have to be signficantly amended to allow the kinds of outdoor advertising foreseen in the FinWater plan. One insider maintains that any move to lift the restrictions would be almost certain to trigger drawn-out public controversy.
Besides big-time outdoor advertising, FinWater's presentation promises to "bring in local, regional and national companies to support and promote local activities through increased vitality and interactive media."
City records show FinWater has hired the local lobbying outfit of Marston & Marston, run by the husband and wife team of Jeff and Myrna Marston, to influence the city on the project's behalf. During the third quarter of this year, the couple was paid $4,000 and lobbied Brad Richter, assistant vice president of planning for the city-owned Centre City Redevelopment Corporation, according to the firm's most recent disclosure report.
As reported here in June, the Marstons have also been working as public relations subcontractors for CCDC's project to turn the site of the old Robinson's department store at the Horton Plaza shopping mall into a public plaza.
According to his biography, FinWater's Ehrlich has "helped structure transactions that ultimately led to multi-million dollar naming rights agreements for Dicks (sic) Sporting Goods Park, the home venue to the Colorado Rapids, as well as Oracle Arena, the home of the Golden State Warriors."
In addition, "Mr. Ehrlich’s clients have included the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, the Cities of Broomfield Colorado, Allen Texas and Independence Missouri, and the Theatres and Arenas division of the City and County of Denver.
"At FinWater, Mr. Ehrlich helped create and launch the Denver Theatre District, the first privately funded downtown arts district of its kind in the country and also founded and launched the youth sports web site SportZu.tv."
Last year, the Denver Post cast a skeptical eye on FinWater's efforts there.
None of the principals were immediately available for comment.