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Trump to visit Chicago and eyeball 'beautiful' sign on building

After defending the controversial new sign bearing his name that he recently slapped across his skyscraper, Donald Trump said he looks forward to soaking up the giant letters in person when he visits Chicago in two weeks.

“Right now you have hundreds [and] hundreds of people a day, an hour, taking their pictures outside the building,” Trump told the Sun-Times in a phone interview Thursday. “People just love the story. It’s been all over the world. I’ve never seen anything like it. Actually, I’ve seen lots of things like it.”

The New York-based Trump plans to view the sign during the day and at night while in Chicago for meetings. “I look forward to it. It’s built to the highest standards,” he said.

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Trump would not say how much the sign cost, simply answering “A lot. I don’t want to tell you. But mucho, mucho dollars. It’s stainless steel number eight finish, the highest level of stainless steel . . . building is what I am best at in life.”

Trump attributed much of the sign controversy to “the loser Blair Kamin” — the Chicago Tribune architecture critic who gave it a negative review. “He’s just not someone I have respect for as a critic . . . even though he gave the building great reviews.”

Reached Thursday, Kamin had this to say in response, “I’m not going to get into the gutter with Donald Trump . . . I would direct you to the note that Trump wrote to me in 2004 after I had given his skyscraper plans a good review. The note says ‘Blair, You are the best! Donald.’ So when I like Donald Trump’s architecture I’m the best and when I don’t he plays name-calling games.”

Lee Hogan/For Sun-Times Media

Trump, when asked whether he feels he’s being picked on, said: “Of course, but that’s the story of my life. It’s a badge of courage.”

Asked why he’s being picked on, Trump said: “Because they love me.”

Trump, after hailing the aid of an assistant, rattled off a number of other buildings in Chicago that have large signs that have not caused such a stir: “Tribune, Sun-Times, Nuveen, Kemper, and these are massive signs, by the way, Boeing, Swissotel, UBS.”

He pointed to a vigorous retort to negative reviews that he says has blossomed on social media.

“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,’” Trump said.

Regarding Emanuel’s knock on the sign as “tasteless,” Trump said: “I’m not sure he saw the sign when he made the statement.”

Trump has not been in touch with Emanuel about the sign.

“I have not talked to him. I respect the mayor,” said Trump, who noted that publicity from the sign has been a positive for Chicago.

“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,” he said.

Asked if he thought he would have received the same treatment from former Mayor Richard M. Daley, Trump said: “I can’t speak for Mayor Daley, I can only say his administration approved [the sign]. Two administrations have actually approved it. Mayor Emanuel’s administration approved it, too.”

The sign on the building spans 2,891 square feet and faces the Chicago River on the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

“It’s going to be an icon quicker than I thought . . . The sign looks so beautiful, many, many people are very angry that people have criticized it,” Trump said.