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Trump Stands Firm On Giant Chicago Sign


A rich, brash, egotistical New Yorker has struck a raw nerve in Chicago. Over the past couple of weeks, Donald Trump's been in a war of words with the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, a Chicago Tribune architectural critic, and a lot of regular Chicagoans. All this over one word, Trump. Mr. Trump has just put up on his skyscraper the Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Chicago. NPR's David Schaper report.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: It's just five letters. How bad could it be?

ZAC TIKNIS: It's an atrocity.

SCHAPER: Zac Tiknis sums up the views of a lot of Chicagoans, walking past the huge T-R-U-M-P stamped on the side of the 96-story tall Trump Tower. The stainless steel letters are gigantic, more than 20-feet tall and nearly half a football field long. At night, they glow in a not-quite-Vegas sort of way, but many here find it too glitzy.

KRISTEN ROHLFING: Yeah, it's a little garish.

SCHAPER: But 32-year-old Kristin Rohlfing says considering its namesake, the sign could be worse.

ROHLFING: It's not, like, bright red or hot pink. It blends in with the building and the facade of the building.

SCHAPER: In fact, many agree that architecturally, this building along the Chicago River blends into the city's stunning skyline quite well. A welcome relief from what they feared when the tower started going up in 2005. So adding this monstrous sign now feels like a betrayal to some.

TIKNIS: I think it's just - a man who already needed to overcompensate, overcompensating even more.

SCHAPER: Thirty-five-year-old Zac Tiknis seems to embody the anti-Trump sentiment in Chicago.

TIKNIS: It's like, hey, look at this large, phallic object. To prove that it's mine, I'm going to put my name on it. Come on, it's ridiculous. He's, he's got a bloated personality, and this is our visual proof.

SCHAPER: Tiknis notes that this oversized and gaudy sign sticks out like a sore thumb and it's positioned across the river, across from some turn-of-the-century architectural gems, and sitting in between the historic Wrigley building and an iconic Mies van der Rowe.

TIKNIS: How about that juxtaposition, huh (laughing)? You know, it's not like you see van der Rowe on the side of a building, you know?

SCHAPER: Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped into the fray, calling the sign tasteless, and ordering staff to see if it could be taken down or made smaller. Trump fired back, calling it beautiful, magnificent, and soon to be iconic. And reminding Emanual that he and the City Council approved the sign.


JON STEWART: Oh, it's a badger fighting a mongoose, I just don't know who to cheer for.


SCHAPER: That left "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart to sort it all out.


STEWART: I've got to say Chicago, I think this is on you. Did you not think Donald Trump was going to put his name on the building you let him build? It's what he does.

SCHAPER: Trump will be coming to Chicago in a couple of weeks to admire his new sign if a saboteur doesn't get to it first. Zac Tiknis' idea?

TIKNIS: You got a way to white out the T so it just says rump.

SCHAPER: That's a change that most Chicagoans would see as fitting. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.
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