Chicago's vacant buildings: 'signs' of the times

February 2, 2010

(photo by Lee Bey)
(photo by Lee Bey)

I came here to complain about the mid-century Austin Federal Savings & Loan having to suffer the double indignity of being boarded up and partly slathered with posters of Ke$ha:

(photo by Lee Bey)
(photo by Lee Bey)

But I won't. Truth is, I like Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," much to the horror of my teenage daughters‚  (even if her hair on the poster makes her look like a displaced member of‚  Kajagoogoo). And with the posters, at least someone found an interim use for the building at North and Linder. The boarded up windows tout a clothing line,‚  a public service ad reminding us of the legal drinking age, and Austin TX indie-rockers Spoon's latest album, Transference...which so far doesn't sound bad.

(photo by Lee Bey)
(photo by Lee Bey)

So I wonder: Can prominently-located vacant buildings like these generate money for themselves‚ by hosting an assortment of ad-related media and signage? Not just slapdash stuff put up by marketing company street teams, but full-blown audio and video as well. We do it with bus shelters, and the sides of Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses. Why not the exteriors of empty buildings?

The income stream could cover the cost of keeping a building mothballed until a permanent use comes along. And if done correctly, it could provide enough sound, music and color to brighten up the street a little.

One Last Thing: I found out Austin Federal was built in 1963, but beyond that we'll have to turn to our good friends at the Bright Lights Dim Beauty of Chicago blog. They've got pre-board-up color photos showing off the building's Googie/Populuxe‚  greatness.

And while we're at it...the Ke$ha video above? Reminds me of this.