Without a doubt, Donald Trump has put his stamp on Chicago thanks to the giant Trump sign adorning his namesake Trump International Hotel and Tower. Love it or despise it, the signage on the second-tallest building in the city is here to stay since both the city zoning committee and City Council signed off on it.
However, in order to make sure such a loud statement is never again featured so brazenly along the Chicago River, Mayor Emanuel introduced the Chicago River Special Sign District last week, which could require new standards for high-rise building signs along the waterway.
“As we move to transform the Chicago River into Chicago’s next great waterfront, we want to ensure that the riverfront is protected from signage that negatively impacts the visual environment,” said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. “This ordinance will allow visitors and residents of Chicago to continue enjoying our world-renowned architecture along the river.”
While the press release didn’t explicitly mention Trump, there’s little doubt the real estate mogul was the impetus for the ordinance, given the controversy that swept the city when the 20-foot tall letters spelling out “TRUMP” were erected on the tower located at 401 North Wabash Avenue this past June.
Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s architecture critic, called the sign “a wart” while a spokeswoman from Mayor Emanuel’s office said that the mayor views the sign as “architecturally tasteless” according to an NBC Chicago report.
The Chicago River Special Sign District will be introduced in October and cover the Chicago River from Roosevelt Road on the south to Kinzie Street on the north and Lake Shore Drive on the east. All lots with street frontage on Wacker Drive from Lake Street to Lake Shore Drive are included as well to protect Chicago from any other kingpins looking to have their name written in the city skyline.
The ordinance says that new signs would be allowed only if they do “not detract from the character of the area, do not have a negative impact on the area, and do not create visual clutter.” Buildings along the riverfront will be limited to one sign, as opposed to the current two sign limit, and a building’s size would determine the maximum size of a sign. Also, high-rise building signs would only be permissible if a tenant occupied a majority of the building’s space.
So what does this mean for the future of signage on downtown buildings? For one thing, the possibility of the city taking on a more Las Vegas appearance of spectacle and questionable eye candy signage will be curbed.
And yet, with this new ordinance set go into effect, one thing remains as clear as a cloudless sky hovering over downtown Chicago: Trump and his giant sign will have no competition to worry about and the Donald must certainly be happy about that. Perhaps he’s sending Mayor Emanuel a thank you card, signed at the bottom in big letters with the name that will haunt our mayor and the city for long time to come: TRUMP.