Blades to Bedazzle Block37

Block37 sign proposal by Kiku Obata

Block37 sign proposal by Kiku Obata

Tragically troubled, yet amazingly clean, downtown shopping mall Block37 (1 West Randolph Street) is getting just a tiny bit flashier.  It’s going to put up so-called “blade” signs on its exterior.

These are the vertical standards that you’ve seen on so many other buildings around town, including the new Gap store right across the street from Block37.  But as is so often the case, things are not easy for ol’ 37.

It happens to sit inside a special city “sign district” that restricts such signs, even though they’re fine for most of its neighbors.  In fact, while the city council-approved Plan Development for the building says it’s perfectly fine for 37 to put on its blades, that conflicts with the sign ordinance, which says nope.  So, just to be absolutely clear on the matter, the owners of Block37 have been prowling the echoing corridors of City Hall trying to get rulings from the appropriate people to certify that the signs are allowed.  And after much footwork, the city’s Plan Commission finally gave its thumb’s up late last month.

Block37 sign proposal by Kiku Obata

Block37 blade sign proposal by Kiku Obata

Until now, Block37 wasn’t allowed to have signs that protrude from the structure more than 12 inches.  Now it’ll be allowed to have real signs to hopefully grab the attention of real shoppers who might want to spend some real money and finish turning this project into a real mall.

But 37 isn’t going nuts.  The PD allows a building of its size to have up to 20,000 square feet of signs.  But only 5,600 square feet are planned.  Plus, it still has to go through the normal sign permitting process.

As once Chicago City Council member quipped, “[Block 37 is] the gift that keeps on giving, we’ve had it here so many times.”

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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