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City Defends $260K 'Asia on Argyle' Sign

By Adeshina Emmanuel | February 13, 2013 9:11am | Updated on February 13, 2013 11:05am

UPTOWN — The controversial "Asia on Argyle" streetscape sign that drew criticism over its design was "built per plan," according to the Chicago Department of Transportation — but it nonetheless failed to match original design specifications set by the city.

M.Q. Construction, a company that has extensive experience paving sidewalks and resurfacing roads, was awarded the contract and constructed the sign, documents show. 

The final design of the sign at the Argyle Red Line station was slammed by critics for such elements as its font and use of lower-case letters.

A photocopy of the original design given to contractors as a guide had several noticeable differences from the final design. The black-and-white rendering has capital letters included, and different spacing and cropping, as well as instructions for a colorful middle support column that was absent in the end result.

 A rendering of the Asia on Argyle sign that was given to M.Q. Construction
A rendering of the Asia on Argyle sign that was given to M.Q. Construction
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Chicago Department of Transportation

Still, city officials defended the final design.

"We were happy with M.Q.'s performance on this project," CDOT spokesman Peter Scales told DNAinfo.com Chicago, despite the harsh reviews it received.

Some people who read that the sign cost $260,000 in TIF funds were perturbed when news of the cost broke on Feb. 4.

Documents show, however, that original estimates for the sign pegged the price at $410,000.

CDOT "was able to reduce costs as the final design was completed," Scales said.

HOK, the international design firm whose logo is featured at the bottom of the rendering, did not return calls for comment.

M.Q. Contruction President Vito Quaranta, reached by phone, said he had not heard any criticism and declined to comment.