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Published: Friday, 1/27/2006

Toledo firm helps spruce up Super Bowl city

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The Spirit of Detroit sculpture is featured in a printed fence surrounding a construction site. The Spirit of Detroit sculpture is featured in a printed fence surrounding a construction site.
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Workers preparing hotel rooms, ordering nachos, and stocking nightclubs for the 100,000 Super Bowl visitors expected in Detroit next week have it easy compared to the assignment of a Toledo firm.

SFC Graphics Inc., 110 East Woodruff Ave., is charged with making the Motor City beautiful for out-of-towners attending the National Football League championship game.

More than a mile of draping depicting the Renaissance Center and other pleasant images has gone up on fences to conceal construction sites and building restoration projects in Detroit's struggling city center.

" We're providing image fence," explained Eric Crockett, business development director for SFC, which produces the six-foot-high draping on a special printing press.

But he was quick to reject the suggestion that the Toledo firm is aiding in the creation of a kind-of Potemkin village. Unlike the facades of thriving settlements supposedly erected in Russia in 1787 to fool Catherine the Great, Detroit isn't trying to deceive anyone.

"A construction site is a dirty place," he explained. " It's just stepping things up a little bit."

The so-called image fence has been used to camouflage work at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan offices, new MGM Grand Casino, and former Book-Cadillac Hotel.

Also, a massive landscape scene, printed at SFC, has been installed over windows of the historic Whitney Building, which is being renovated.

"We are pleased with the work," said Kate Beebe, a project manager with the nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership, which paid for the polyester mesh product.

Printed from a collage produced by Detroit architects Rosetti Associates, the construction site draping shows local landmarks including the Spirit of Detroit statue and the Motown museum.

The partnership decided that the usual black draping used on construction-site fencing would be too stark and that leaving the sites uncovered would contribute to a "raggedy" look, Ms. Beebe explained.

Because the fencing is being used at construction sites, but not abandoned buildings, local boosters shouldn't be accused of trying to hide blight or create a false impression of Detroit, she said.

Detroit isn't the first Super Bowl host to take such a tack, added Heather George, spokesman for a local committee that is acting as official host of the Feb. 5 game.

"It's very typical," she said. "There are development projects going on in most cities."

The Detroit project is the first time that SFC, a 104-year-old Toledo printing concern that today specializes in large-format work, has made the product.

And it won't be the last, if company officials have their way. They plan to market the product to construction planners in Toledo and elsewhere. The printing firm hopes to continue to work with TTL Associates, Toledo, which assisted with the Detroit project.

Because that firm does construction-site testing and is involved in the early stages of building, SFC officials believe it can provide valuable marketing assistance, said the printing firm's business development director.

Although pricing hasn't been finalized, company officials expect Image Fence to cost about $3 a square foot, although charges will vary by project, Mr. Crockett said.

Because the fencing is being used at construction sites, but not abandoned buildings, local boosters shouldn't be accused of trying to hide blight or create a false impression of Detroit, she said.

Detroit isn't the first Super Bowl host to take such a tack, added Heather George, spokesman for a local committee that is acting as official host of the Feb. 5 game.

"It's very typical," she said. "There are development projects going on in most cities."

The Detroit project is the first time that SFC, a 104-year-old Toledo printing concern that today specializes in large-format work, has made the product.

And it won't be the last, if company officials have their way. They plan to market the product to construction planners in Toledo and elsewhere. The printing firm hopes to continue to work with TTL Associates, Toledo, which assisted with the Detroit project.

Because that firm does construction-site testing and is involved in the early stages of building, SFC officials believe it can provide valuable marketing assistance, said the printing firm's business development director.

Although pricing hasn't been finalized, company officials expect Image Fence to cost about $3 a square foot, although charges will vary by project, Mr. Crockett said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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