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CHICAGO-Bank One Corp.’s 60-story, 2.4-million-sf tower at 21 S. Clark St. is undergoing a $100-million renovation, with much of the improvements aimed at the ground level and concourse area. However, plans for a 1,152-sf illuminated sign atop the tower drew the most scrutiny by the city’s plan commission, which ultimately recommended the bank’s planned development proposal to the city council for approval.

The bank, which became the anchor tenant earlier this year in Prime Group Realty Trust’s 1.5-million-sf Bank One Corporate Center at 131 S. Dearborn St., is doing the renovations in an attempt to reposition its building as a class A asset, says Chicago Department of Planning and Development deputy commissioner Jack Swenson.

Plan commission chairman Peter Bynoe was irked at a presentation that failed to include an adequate rendition of the Bank One sign atop the building. However, that was the tip of the iceberg, as Doris B. Holleb and Leon Finney also questioned whether a trend toward rooftop signs was forming.

“Unfortunately, we’ve come to a point where this is commonplace,” Finney says, adding a building’s architecture should provide sufficient identification. He also urged the city’s zoning reform commission to give careful consideration to new rules on rooftop signs.

“I’d hate to see signs on every building in Chicago 50 or 60 stories tall,” Finney adds.

However, 42nd Ward Alderman Burton Natarus says the Department of Planning and Development can exercise greater control over the improvements being made to Bank One’s building through the planned development process. He also believes rooftop signs enhance the city’s image as a corporate headquarters, which has been dimmed by numerous defections to the suburbs and beyond.

“It’s not an advertising sign. It’s a building identification,” Natarus says. “If you can see all the corporations that are located in Chicago, it helps the city’s economic development.”

Boeing Corp. got a rooftop sign in a package that lured its corporate headquarters from Seattle to 150 N. Riverside Dr., besting proposals by Denver and Dallas, Natarus notes. “We want to encourage corporations to announce the fact they’re in Chicago,” he adds.

The city’s plan commission gives Bank One five years to complete its improvement program at its building on three acres bounded by Madison, Monroe, Clark and Dearborn streets.

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