For Unisys: No sign, no lease?

To suburban hi-tech firm Unisys, hanging two giant red logos on the face of Two Liberty Place would be a proud declaration of a new global headquarters.

To its new neighbors in the building's high-end condos, the proposed signs would be a garish advertisement too close to home.

For the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, two hours was not nearly enough time for everyone to have their say yesterday. The board took no action on the signs, and another hearing will be scheduled, likely in September.

Unisys made its pitch with a corporate branding expert and an architectural historian, saying that the signs would be beacons to potential customers and employees, and that the company is adding to the city's economic health.

The 16-foot-tall signs, red letters against the bluish-gray windows, would be on the east and west sides of the building's 37th and 38th floors. Those floors, used for heating and cooling systems, are unoccupied.

George Thomas, of the local consulting firm Civic Visions LP, said the logos would be an "affirmation" of the city's health. He compared that to what he considered a small number of objections.

"Businesses don't go to places that are dying and try to put their names on them," said Thomas. "They go to places that are thriving. Are we going to allow eight people to kill major progress for the city? I mean, that's nuts."

Unisys signed a 15-year lease in December to rent 3 1/2 floors - about 7 percent of Two Liberty Place's floor space - and plans to move 225 employees from its headquarters in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, where 750 people now work. Jerald Goodman, an attorney for Unisys, told the board that the lease gives the company the right to ask the city for the signs but is not conditional on that request being approved.

Unisys spokesman Brian Daly said that his company would "need to re-evaluate" its move if the signs are not approved. Daly said Unisys considered several factors when deciding on Center City.

"The right to display the corporate logo was one of them," Daly said. "It's not the only factor, but it's a very important one."

The Residences at Two Liberty Place LP, the company that runs the condo operation, filed a federal lawsuit in March, saying that Unisys had failed to get the required approval of the residents for exterior signs.

Shanon Levin, an attorney for the condo company, declined to comment yesterday because she has not yet had a chance to make her case to the zoning board.

The condo residents are being supported by the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, which has long fought against billboards and other signs in the city. SCRUB executive director Mary Tracy said Unisys should not be able to disregard other tenants in the building. She also worries that zoning approval would set a precedent for other companies to demand signs on skyscrapers.

"Do we prostitute our visual space in order to lure them here?" Tracy asked. "I don't really think our visual aspects should be on the table as a bargaining chip." *