'Big blue' Lincoln Park sculpture likely to stick around

December 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

One person's work of art may be another person's heap of scrap, but both of those are acceptable to the City of Chicago as long as they have paid permits. Now, though, building department officials say no permit was ever obtained by the owners of "big blue" and they are being cited and fined.

But, for neighbors who see it as a monstrosity out of place in a residential neighborhood, it looks as though it is there to stay.

When the modern metal abstract by famous sculptor John Henry went up in late October, some nearby residents reacted in a thoroughly modern manner: They posted complaints to a blog, calling it "hideous."

Another put a video on YouTube complete with play-by-play: "Inquiring minds want to know, what the (expletive) is this thing?"

That was also what city building department officials wanted to know following the I-Team's report and residents' calls to the mayor's office.

Now, after an investigation of building permits and inspections for the construction project, city officials say the sculpture was erected illegally.

A building department spokesman says homeowner John Novak, a prominent city builder himself, has been notified that he put up the artwork in violation of city code and that he now needs to apply for a permit, which will require drawings to be submitted and a structural review.

Novak will also be fined. Although, at most, it will be half of whatever the permit costs.

If the conditions are met, and the permit granted, the sculpture will remain.

An eyesore to some. Sheer beauty to others.

Building department officials say there is no deadline for obtaining the permit. They say the homeowner and art aficionado Novak has been cooperative in the process.

Novak did not return the I-Team's phone call.

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