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The Trump Sign’s Legacy


This summer, the Donald’s enormous sign went from being a municipal kerfuffle to fodder for Jon Stewart and other national media outlets. (No press is bad press?) Now it could determine the future of the Chicago Riverfront.


Mayor Emanuel is proposing “sign district” restrictions along the river, which would place major limitations on the aesthetics of future signs. Until a sign is approved and goes up, officials don’t always have a true sense of what it will look like, Schiff Hardin partner Janet Johnson says (snapped at the International Triathlon in June, two days after her doctor cleared her from any restrictions after a broken arm in March). By then, it’s too late, but they can update ordinances to prevent future 2,891 SF, visually garish (some say) offenses. The Trump sign would be grandfathered in, but for how long depends on what’s in the permit and city codes, she says. If it’s damaged over the years—or the name changes—and it needs to be replaced, the new sign might need to comply with the current ordinance.


Since sign drama like this hasn't popped up until now, Janet doubts a “sign district” would make a difference for most developers. Big signs make sense for retailers and offices in the suburbs, she says, where people are driving by on the highway and need them to find where they’re going. On the riverfront, most people are at ground level walking or on a boat, and you can’t even see the signs from your car or cab. At the office, Janet recently closed a few ground leases and new developments in the ‘burbs, and she completed three triathlons this summer.