Billboard magnate Thaddeus Bartkowski wants $1.43 million in state funds to help his company, Catalyst Experiential LLC, build an advertising-screen-festooned emergency-services station for Bensalem Township in Bucks County.

The Bensalem Emergency Services Building, planned at the 1.1-acre site of what’s now a dry-cleaning shop along Lincoln Highway northeast of the Neshaminy Mall, would be the latest ad-supported civic building to enter Catalyst’s development pipeline.

Others include a dog park elsewhere in Bensalem and an outdoor theater in Coatesville, Chester County, both of which are to be fronted by digital screens. Catalyst has said the construction of these projects would be funded entirely through ads that are broadcast on the screens, so will require no public spending.

For the Bensalem Emergency Services Building, however, Catalyst is seeking a subsidy from the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which support projects seen by Pennsylvania’s Budget Office as having the potential to substantially boost economic growth in surrounding areas.

Dry-cleaning shop at 2653 Lincoln Highway in Bensalem Township that is slated to be demolished so an emergency-services station with a digital billboard on its side can be built in its place.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Dry-cleaning shop at 2653 Lincoln Highway in Bensalem Township that is slated to be demolished so an emergency-services station with a digital billboard on its side can be built in its place.

An earlier version of the building, which would house police and emergency-medical units, could have been developed using ad revenue alone, but costs ballooned after Bensalem officials requested that a nine-lane firearm range be added to the project, Bartkowski said in an interview.

“Adding this functional piece to the project made the project go beyond the scope of what we had originally proposed and what our business model can support on its own,” he said.

Bartkowski’s plan calls for a 10,000-square-foot, single-story building fronted by 1,200 square feet of digital screens at the 2653 Lincoln Highway site.

The RACP support being sought would match $1.43 million that Catalyst plans to invest in the project, according to a copy of the grant application provided to The Inquirer.

Bartkowski said he already has approvals to develop the site with landscaping and digital signs, a format he calls a “monument.” That would cost $1 million and generate the same revenue as the emergency building project, but he was willing to incur the additional expense, he said in the RACP application.

In the interview, conducted after the application was filed in late January, Bartkowski said he’s no longer considering the monument and will attempt to develop a version of the emergency building without a shooting range if he does not receive the state support.