LOGAN SQUARE — Two massive billboard frames hanging on the south wall of the former Grace's Furniture building in the heart of Logan Square are empty, and if more than 1,000 residents have their way, they'll stay that way.
The Logan Boulevards and the actual square just south of the building were designated a Chicago Landmark District in 2005, meaning area buildings must maintain the historic look of the neighborhood.
So when resident Andrew Schneider saw the billboard frames go up, the 33-year-old decided to fight and started an online petition to stop the billboard company from moving forward.
"No billboards have been present on the building for the last several years," he wrote in the petition. "To permit them now would detrimentally impact our neighborhood, our quality of life and our historic landmark district."
Though there had been big ads on the building in the past, only a couple have gone up since the area received landmark status — and those were illegal signs that residents fought successfully to have removed.
Steve Hier, 64, has lived in the neighborhood since 1977 and was one of the residents who fought against an enormous Pepsi ad illegally put up on the building's facade in 2009, and is also fighting against the new billboards.
These new billboards however, are legal — at least partly. The building's owners and the billboard company, Visual Cast, did get the city permits to erect the signs, though they have not received permission from the Landmarks Commission.
"How Visual Cast is able to keep the sign frames up there when they don't have permission from the Landmarks Commission is beyond me," Hier said.
Representatives from Visual Cast declined to comment Tuesday afternoon, and building owners Julio and Digna Martinez did not return calls for comment.
Schneider's petition had more than 1,000 signatures as of Tuesday night, and it was filled with comments from concerned residents.
"These billboards would mar the center of our neighborhood — one of the spaces that makes Logan Square unique and special," Jennifer Boeder wrote. "Every square inch of our public spaces, it seems, from buses to gas stations, is covered with advertising. The city should not permit our singular public spaces to be rented out to the highest bidder."
A dozen other comments expressed similar sentiments.
"It gives you an idea just how personally people in this neighborhood take ownership of our public spaces," Schneider said.
The Landmarks Commission will consider the Logan Square billboard issue at its next meeting, on May 2 at City Hall.