Vintage trademarks can be registered under the proposed provision.


In the year In the 2012 book “Signs, Streets and Storefronts,” author Martin True wrote that old neon signs “often serve as important urban landmarks.”

“They help to visually identify key locations in a city and mark them with unique visual icons,” he argued. They provide streets with “character and animation, reinforcing local history.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson and the new City Council floor leader clearly agree.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Johnson introduced an ordinance aimed at protecting Chicago’s most iconic “or signs,” including the Grace Furniture sign in Logan Square.

The ordinance establishes a framework that allows trademarks that are “at least 30 years old” and that “provide to represent a level of character and nostalgia” subject to city review and remain in place for five — indefinitely. “Annual License” will be renewable.

Currently, anyone who buys property with a historic landmark is required to take the property down if the previous owner allows the landmark permit to expire.

That threatens to rob Chicago of some of its character and history, like demolishing a historic building.

“Our communities have many beautiful historic landmarks that new business owners want to incorporate into their small businesses,” said Zoning Committee Chairwoman Ramirez-Rosa, who chaired Tuesday’s first meeting.

“This city code change allows historic signs to receive a new classification as a vintage sign. The sign has to be over 30 years old. They have to make sure the sign is safe and well-maintained. And if they can prove those things, they can get a permit to protect that sign.”

Like Trew, Ramirez-Rosa pointed to the Grace Furniture sign in Logan Square Ward as a “famous example” of thrift.

“It’s a big sign that’s on. It is historic. Under current city code, this sign must be taken down. But the developer, working with the community, chose to preserve that historic landmark and include it in the new commercial and redevelopment plan.

“This ordinance will allow such businesses to retain the historic landmark.”

The mayor’s ordinance also confronts the problem of murals that businesses have been forced to remove because they are advertising signs — which fall into the shadowy category amid arguments that they are not public art.

Ramirez-Rosa recalled the controversy at Pilsen-based Memo’s Hot Dog’s, 1447 W. 18th Street.

A three-generation family-owned hot dog stand has been fined — and initially failed to renew its business license — by city regulators for a colorful mural advertising a sign painted on the restaurant’s exterior.

People can be seen eating hot dogs on the wall. It did not include the name “Memo’s Hot Dogs”.

“The city supervisor decided they couldn’t put up that wall because they sell hot dogs and they have a wall of hot dogs and so they were promoting their business,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“This update allows businesses to display their merchandise and include it in an artistic mural, providing more exciting options as long as they don’t advertise their business directly on the wall.”

The ordinance also deals with what Ramirez-Rosa calls “ghost signs” — historic symbols painted on the side of buildings, often a century ago.

They are covered with paint or brick wall. When the paint fades or the brick wall is “taken away”, the old, faded sign is visible for all to see.

“According to the existing city law, this is considered an advertisement,” the chairman said.

“This change allows building owners and business owners to obtain a permit for that sign that indicates its historic character. It gives small business owners more options to easily decide what kind of historic or vintage or artistic sign they want for their business.”


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