Could Trump lose Chicago’s second-tallest building?
When Joe Biden beat Donald Trump to the presidency, what Trump would turn to next was up in the air. An ominous cloud of alleged unpaid taxes and substantial debt had been growing and the future of Trump’s real-estate hung in the balance. Now, after the deadly Capitol insurrection, a second impeachment circles Donald Trump, local ordinances are seeking approval, and corporate America has quickly begun distancing itself from the outgoing President.
Before even being denied a second stint as President of the United States Donald Trump’s tax records had been the source of much debate. A New York Times article published in September of 2020 claimed that over 20 years of Donald Trump’s tax information revealed audit battles, substantial debt, and struggling properties. One of these properties that allegedly lies at the center of it all is Chicago’s own Trump Tower. With mounting pressure, a complex backstory, and calls to strip Trump Tower of its sign, the possibility is becoming more and more plausible.
The latest call to remove the Trump sign has been voiced by Northwest Side Alderman, Gilbert Villegas, who serves as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s floor leader in City Council. Earlier this week he announced plans to introduce an ordinance at a City Council meeting forcing the Trump lettering’s removal following the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol. This ordinance would bar anybody found guilty of treason, sedition, or subversive actions from doing business with the city, including having a sign permit. Villegas said that “the sign just doesn’t represent Chicago’s values” and called it “a stain” on our stunning skyline.
The second tallest building in Illinois has towered over the main branch of the Chicago River since it topped out in 2008. Though it has long split opinion, it is the enormous lettering that many Chicagoans have a problem with and Villegas joins a long list of people to openly criticize the sign. When the building was finally completed in 2009, its design was largely praised and the building was welcomed as a member of Chicago’s cityscape only for Trump to erect 20-foot tall stainless steel letters spelling out TRUMP in 2014.
Then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel was appalled, calling it “an architecturally tasteful building scarred by an architecturally tasteless sign.” Emanuel was not alone. Alderman, architecture columnists, and many, many Chicagoans voiced their disapproval but Trump responded with a tweet calling it “magnificent and popular” insisting that people were “LOVING the Trump sign”.
Fast forward to 2021 and plenty has happened but the signs standing has never been in doubt, until the last few months. Attorneys, aldermen, investigative reporters, and politicians across the nation are taking measures against the outgoing President and the Trump brand has never looked so fragile. The last week of events and calls for impeachment are the latest of months of activity that have cast doubt over Trump’s real-estate, with Chicago’s Trump Tower at the center of the storm.
A 2019 testimony from Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, an investigation from New York Attorney General Letitia James, and an ongoing analysis by the Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Fahrenthold, are three sources claiming that the financing of Chicago’s Trump Tower needs to be carefully examined.
Several New York Times articles have alleged that millions of debt and forgiven loans complicate Trump’s taxes and how he funded Chicago’s Trump Tower. Supposedly forgiven loans left out of tax reports, hedge funds selling on debts to close political accomplices, and unclear dealings have led to an impending inspection of Trump and his Chicago-based Tower.
Chicago’s Trump Tower has also long failed to fill all of its vacant spaces. Chicago’s real estate news outlet The Real Deal labeled it as ‘no man’s land’ in 2019 citing that a decade after it opened “the entire deck-level space remains empty. No part of it has ever been leased.” According to The Real Deal, a visit from Donald Trump Jr intended to revitalize interest in the vacant spaces but the “77 potential tenants — mostly cafe and restaurant operators — ultimately all said no.”
The same news source has joined others in alleging a history of strong-arming and tax maneuvering surrounds the Tower. With investigative journalists from the Washington Post and the New York Times circling, an impeachment gathering momentum, and local ordinances seeking approval, the future of the Chicago Trump Tower is up in the air.
With alleged inspections and seemingly unfillable vacant spaces, it has long been suggested that Trump might make changes to his real-estate empire, but it looks now like he might instead be forced to, and the enormous steel sign may not be there by the end of this year.