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New Huge Digital Billboard Near Kennedy Called 'A Disgrace to Bucktown'

By Alisa Hauser | October 4, 2016 9:54am | Updated on October 4, 2016 10:23am
 A billboard at Armitage and Hermitages avenues in Bucktown will be visible from the Kennedy Expressway. 
Billboard at Armitage and Hermitage Avenues in Bucktown
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BUCKTOWN — Local traffic near the Kennedy Expy. is expected to be interrupted this weekend to complete the installation of a massive digital billboard that has taken over a sidewalk frequently used by commuters going to and from a nearby Metra stop.

Foot and auto traffic was clogged last weekend for the project, which a worker said would be completed by Saturday.

Last weekend, a construction worker at the billboard site, at 1748 W. Armitage Ave., said that the sidewalk will be widened after the billboard is installed so that pedestrians can use the sidewalk. 

A spokeswoman for the billboard owner, Interstate JCDecaux, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the lack of accessibility to the sidewalk created by the new two-sided sign.

The billboard is described to potential advertisers on the firm's website as an "imposing billboard" that "captures the attention of those heading inbound from the North and Northwest suburbs and O’Hare."

City officials did not respond to emails sent early Monday and Tuesday about the narrowed sidewalk.

The billboards, approved in 2012 by the City Council, could generate $270 million for the city over the next 20 years.

The narrowing of the sidewalk caught the attention of Mike Elliott, a civil engineer who lives up the street from the busy intersection. Elliott said he was concerned about people with disabilities, saying that the project may violate access under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"The huge tower base has been installed in the public sidewalk leaving what looks like only 2.5 [feet] of clearance to the back of the curb," Elliott said.

He added that the billboard "will certainly light up the neighborhood like the one installed [in 2014] behind the Orloff car dealership."

The permit fee of $2,500 to build the estimated $608,662 billboard was waived, city records from when the building permit was received show.

The 20-by 60-foot billboard is designated "Site 27" on a Chicago billboard map of 57 locations.

The billboards are part of a 2012 lease agreement introduced to the Council by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that allowed the signs to be exempt from most rules regarding billboards, such as not having two boards within 500 feet of each other.

Ken Tyler, a Bucktown resident, described the new billboard as "a disgrace to Bucktown." 

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), who was one of six alderman to vote against Emanuel's ordinance, said, "This goes to show how bad the deal is for residents who were upset about the other signs being erected by this company here in Bucktown and in other areas of the city." 

"In his rush to cut this bad deal back several years ago, the mayor discarded any legal or quality of life concerns for residents and businesses who don't want these signs because of their direct negative impact," Waguespack said.

Jeremy Kulak, a Bucktown resident who says his Downtown skyline view has been marred by a nearby JCDecuax billboard at 1929 N. Paulina St., said that "It seems that  JDdecaux can erect these billboards anywhere they want. With no regard for the residents that have to live next to it. "

Kulak wondered if citizens will "see the day when the mayor convinces the City Council to privatize our sidewalks and streets for cash."

On a Facebook page for Bucktowners, where many who live close to the billboard complained, a  resident posted a photo of the pole with a caption of "Sidewalk vs. Billboard ... billboard wins."


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