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Highland Park OKs Billy Corgan’s sign exemption

The HighlPark City Council voted Jan. 14 allow Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan keep oversized nesign window his Madame ZuZu’s

The Highland Park City Council voted Jan. 14 to allow Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan to keep the oversized neon sign in the window of his Madame ZuZu’s teahouse. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 19, 2013 2:13PM

HIGHLAND PARK — Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan can keep the oversized neon sign in the window of his Madame ZuZu’s teahouse now that the Highland Park City Council has granted variations to permit the sign.

Corgan and a new partner, Ashlee Braet, asked the city to make exceptions after learning the 44-inch tall lettering spelling out ZuZu’s was in violation of city sign restrictions. Nor had a permit been requested, as required by city code.

Corgan opened the teahouse in a former post office storefront at 582 Rogers Williams Avenue in September within the Ravinia Business District, which the city hopes to revitalize.

“Our ZUZU’s sign is the social media focal point for the business,” Corgan said, in a December letter requesting the variances. “In this day and age of Facebook/Twitter, ‘the shot’ is just as valuable as the name of the business and it’s size,” said Corgan, noting that virtually every customer from out of town takes a picture in front of the ZuZu’s sign.

“The success of the shop thus far, the vast amount of press that has been and continues to extol the virtues of life in Highland Park, and my unique status put a special pressure on us to get it right from the very beginning.”

Corgan argued that the sign does not obscure the vision of motorists, compete with traffic signals or city signage, or shine any light into any neighboring business.

The sign was designed by Corgan himself in a font he says was created by French designer Yves Saint Laurent. The sign occupies 49 square feet. It is technically five times the area permitted for a window sign and 130 times the allowed size of an exposed neon sign for the zoning district.

The city’s sign code places tight restrictions on any use of exposed neon. The code would only allow a 54-square-inch exposed neon sign for the purpose of stating the establishment was open for business. The city council granted Corgan’s requests Monday. Last summer, the city denied the owners’ requests to paint the exterior a glossy black.

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