Trump happy over Emanuel crackdown on signs

SHARE Trump happy over Emanuel crackdown on signs

After a clash of giant egos, developer Donald Trump on Wednesday got the last laugh in his sign war with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel proposed a crackdown on riverfront signs that will inadvertently help to promote Trump’s treasured brand.

By turning the Chicago Riverfront into a “sign district”—with sharp limits on the size, placement and make-up of future signs—Emanuel hopes to prevent Chicago’s next great public space from turning into a cheesy Midwest version of the Las Vegas strip.

But, that also means that the 2,891 square foot sign that Trump used to brand his 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower will have far less competition for the eye to see.

To say that that makes the brash New York City developer of, “The Apprentice” fame happy would be an understatement.

“This legislation is not something I’m exactly opposed to,” Trump said Wednesday.

So, Emanuel’s crackdown indirectly helps to promote the Trump brand?

“I guess you could say that,” he said.

Trump said he applied for the sign that bears his name under the old law and got the necessary permits after getting “everything perfect.” Former Mayor Richard M. Daley approved it at 3,600 square feet. Emanuel cut it to 2,891 square feet before authorizing it himself.

“It’s the Hollywood sign of Chicago. People love it. People are taking pictures out there by the hundreds every day,” Trump said Wednesday.

“If they want to change the law from this day forward, that’s up to the mayor. But you can’t go back.”

The ordinance that Emanuel plans to introduce at next month’s City Council meeting would turn the Chicago Riverfront — from Kinzie Streetall the way south to Roosevelt Road —into a sign district similar to one that shields Michigan Avenuefrom visual clutter.

No sign could be larger than 550 square feet and signs on the shortest buildings could be limited to 250 square feet. Rooftop signs and painted wall signs would be strictly prohibited. So would neon signs, flashing signs, “dynamic image display” signs and banners.

Each building would be limited to one sign, instead of two. And signs could be put up on riverfront high-risesonly to promote a “principal tenant” that occupies “51 percent or more of the floor space.”

All signs would have to be affixed on building walls parallel to the property line. None could project more than 12 inches from the building’s façade.

On riverfront buildings that are not high-rises, “no sign shall be located more than two stories above grade on any building side that is adjacent to the Chicago River.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) worked closely with the mayor’s office to craft the riverfront sign restrictions.

“We’re in the middle of an exciting, $100 million riverwalk redevelopment project. This is going to be the city’s next big tourism draw. It’s home to all of our important architectural tours. Reducing visual clutter along the river is important. Given the city’s significant investment, we want to set a higher design aesthetic standard along that corridor,” Reilly said.

Reilly has argued that he had no choice but to “pinch my nose and approve” a Trump sign the alderman called “distasteful” because it complied with the zoning code. Had it been denied, Trump likely would have sued the city and won, the alderman said.

“There are a lot of very large signs that buildings [along the river] negotiated through the planned development process. Historically, building owners were given significant signage entitlements. This requires a stricter standard. This business of planned developments being negotiated, including tremendous square-footage signs — those days are over,” Reilly said.

RELATED:Reilly wants classier, more subtle signs along Michigan Ave.

Three months ago, Emanuel belatedly jumped into the fray after a public campaign against the Trump sign spearheaded by the Chicago Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Blair Kamin.

The mayor denounced the sign as “architecturally tasteless” and asked his staff to explore the city’s legal options to change it — even as he acknowledged that it complies with the planned development ordinance. Days later, the mayor acknowledged there was nothing he could do to change the Trump sign and set his sights on preventing copycats.

Trump fired back by making the rounds of morning network talk shows to defend the sign and ridicule Emanuel’s pre-occupation with trivia.

“Chicago has other problems they should be worried about —not a sign,” he declared.

In a follow-up interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Trump reveled in the publicity the sign war had generated and proclaimed that the headlines would help turn his riverfront tower into “an icon quicker than” even he originally thought.

“People just love the story. It’s been all over the world. I’ve never seen anything like it. Actually, I’ve seen a lot of things like it,” he said.

“The publicity has been all over the world. It’s a major story. When you think about that Iraq is being taken over by enemies, and this thing is trending, it’s pretty ridiculous…. I was very honored by all of the support. Many people pushed back the pushbackers. A lot of them said ‘Chicago has a lot bigger problems than to talk about this sign.’ “

Asked then whether he feels he’s being picked on, the developer who just loves to plaster his name on the side of his buildings, said: “Of course, but that’s the story of my life. It’s a badge of courage.”

Pressed to explain why, Trump said:“Because they love me.”

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