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Ohio Museum Ready for Big Arby's Sign

The American Sign Museum is ready to accept the sign at 1340 Lincoln Boulevard and the owners are ready to donate it as they prepare to turn the Arby's into a Wendy's.

The giant cowboy hat-shaped sign at 1340 Lincoln Blvd. will live even though the "delicious" roast beef sandwiches it's advertising will not.

The will be shuttered and turned into a Wendy's while the sign is relocated to its new home at the American Sign Museum in Ohio.

The only step left before Santa Monica bids farewell to the retro sign is for the property owners to secure final permits from the city for the restaurant changeover.

According to Mike Dampf, the regional construction engineer for Wendy's, the company is in the process of drawing up the documents needed to apply for those permits.

Wendy's agreed to donate the sign, first to a museum of neon in Glendale, but it turned down the sign because of the sign's size—20 feet wide by 35 feet high, according to Ken Kutcher, attorney for the property owners John and David Bohn.

As first reported by the Santa Monica Daily Press, the sign was then offered to the sign museum in Cincinnati. Museum co-owner Tod Swormstedt said that he was excited to get the sign, but that he was not sure when it would come to the museum. Wendy's has agreed to pay for dismantling and moving the sign, in addition to donating it.

Neither Dampf nor Kutcher could offer any specifics on when the sign would actually be relocated beyond that it wouldn't happen until the restaurant changeover actually begins, and that depends on when the project finally winds it way through the rest of the city planning approval process.

Far from being a tussle, the story of what to do with the neon sign for the sandwich fast food restaurant is one of cooperation between several entities, including the city's Landmarks Commission, Wendy's and Arby's corporate offices, the property owners and the sign museum.

"We wanted to see if there was a solution that was not provocative, that was cooperative," said Kutcher.

The story starts when the Wendy's Company bought a significant interest in the Arby's Restaurant Group last July, and then decided it wanted to change the Arby's restaurant on Lincoln Boulevard to a Wendy's.

Under normal circumstances, such a change would not have drawn much interest, except that the sign for the restaurant had been designated a "meritorious" sign, which means that it does not have to conform to current city rules for signage.

Still, the city's Architectural Review Board recommended that the sign not be demolished.

"Since the sign is not a designated Landmarked[sic], and the fast food brand is changing to Wendy's, [city] staff has asked the applicant to consider donating the sign to preserve it for novelty sake," the board wrote in a Dec. 5 memo, noting that staff could not require that the sign be preserved.

The matter went before the city's Landmarks Commission Dec. 12, even though the Commission doesn't have any actual authority over the sign. A letter written by Kutcher on behalf of the Bohn family, who owns the land that the restaurant sits on, hints at why the Wendy's representatives chose to donate the sign.

"If the Commission were to direct the filing of a nomination application [for Landmark status], it would prevent Wendy's from obtaining the necessary approvals needed from the Architectural Review Board," the letter reads.

"It wasn't up to us to approve it or not approve it unless we decided to Landmark it" said Roger Genser, of the Landmarks Commission.

Dampf conceded that the company did have the right to demolish the sign, but decided that it would be better to make the donation.

"We thought it would be a good coporate neighbor thing," he said.

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