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'Asia on Argyle' Sign Cost $260,000 In TIF Funds, Alderman's Office Says

By Adeshina Emmanuel | February 4, 2013 11:40am

UPTOWN — For those who think the massive "Asia on Argyle" streetscape sign is a blight on Uptown, here's something else to ponder:

The gateway sign that's been denounced as "ugly" and "tacky" by some cost about $260,000 in tax increment finance district funds, officials said.

There are no plans to revise the sign despite the mixed reviews.

The sign is one of Ald. Harry Osterman's (48th) first steps toward building a streetscape on Argyle Avenue, a corridor home to many Asian-American businesses in Uptown.

"That sign has been constructed and it would be very difficult to try to make changes to the identifier at this time," said Dan Luna, Osterman's chief of staff. "It's not like you can just go up there and flip it around."

In 2011, the city transferred about $2.4 million from the Lawrence/Broadway TIF district to the Hollywood/Sheridan TIF district, where the sign is located. About $1.9 million was set aside "for the construction phase of a streetscape project on Argyle Avenue between Sheridan Road and Broadway Avenue," documents said.

Of that cash, about $260,000 went to the "Asia on Argyle" sign, according to Luna.

More than 100 people have commented on the 48th Ward's Facebook page about the sign since it was installed. Some comments are positive, but the majority are negative.

Critics complained about the lower-cased letters, the absent dot in the letter i in "Asia", the size and spacing of letters and other design elements some people called "tacky" and "ugly."

Commenter Robert Bacon declared the station is "now the ugliest station in the history of the CTA."

Others are happy with the sign, including commenter Tyler Bubenik, who posted that he didn't quite get "the outpouring of negativity over this renovation."

"While I can't argue against individual personal tastes, I can argue that such bombastic language is ill-fitting," he wrote. "This is a good thing for the neighborhood."

Alyssa Berman-Cutler, president of the economic development organization Uptown United, told DNAinfo.com that "a lot of it is a matter of taste."

"I think that some people will like it and some people won't," she said.

Luna promised that Osterman will be meeting with the community in coming months regarding further plans for the streetscape, which officials said will be completed in 2014.

The idea behind the project is to promote and rebrand Argyle Street by enhancing building facades, and installing "signage and design features" that connect the corridor to Uptown's entertainment center and "direct visitors from Lake Shore Drive and the neighboring bike path," according to a 2008 report.