Welcome to the "Gayborhood."

A welcoming vibe is what organizers hope to inspire when visitors see new street signage that will designate a portion of the Center City District as the city's official gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-sensitive neighborhood.

The official "Gayborhood" extends from 11th to Broad streets, and from Pine to Locust.

"This sends a message to the region, country and world that Philadelphia is very diverse," said Councilman Frank DiCicco during yesterday's unveiling at 13th and Locust. "This is a tribute to gay people and people who aren't that they have a willingness to live and work together."

Michael Hinson Jr., City Hall's liaison to the LGBT community, and Tami Sortman of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, joined DiCicco for the announcement.

The new street signs will feature the traditional GLBT rainbow, or "Freedom" flag underneath the usual street signs.

The rainbow design was created by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker.

In all, 36 new signs have been installed in the community.

Four other North American cities officially designate LGBT-friendly neighborhoods: San Francisco, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.

"The signage is an important symbol for this city," Sortman said. "The major thing is that we can use this in all of our marketing. We can say that we have a neighborhood."

The Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus estimates that the travel market for gay and lesbians is a staggering $54 billion. And Philadelphia, organizers say, should see a healthy share of that money, given the gay-friendly clubs, restaurants and other establishments dotting the newly designated district.

The more immediate impact, however, is this district serving as a sensitive bastion for gays and lesbians.

"Not only does this bring a sense of welcoming to the local community, it's a symbol to the world," Sortman said. "The 36 signs are a major accomplishment."

Judy Applebaum, of the Washington Civic Association, agreed.

"I have long said that Wash West is the best community to live in due to its diversity," Applebaum said. "Now, people will see the signs and know they are safe and welcome.

"We welcome everybody." *