UPTOWN — The Wilson "L" station for many years has been a place for loitering and illicit activity, but now the Chicago Transit Authority plans to refurbish it with a $203 million reconstruction plan.
When the work is done, commuters from the area will also find it easier to get around. The new station is scheduled to be completed in 33 months after construction begins in the middle of next year. When that happens, Wilson will be the only transfer station between the Belmont and Howard stations. Red Line riders will be able to transfer to Purple Line express trains that run during rush hour.
"It will be a whole new start for this neighborhood," said Jeff Souva, a resident who avoids the Wilson station and uses the Lawrence "El" station to the north, instead. The Wilson station will not have to close completely during construction.
Souva and dozens of other residents attended an Oct. 11 open house hosted by the CTA at Harry S. Truman College, where details of the project were revealed.
Wilson Station was constructed in 1923 and hasn't seen a major renovation since, CTA spokesman Brian Steele said.
The CTA plans to move the main entrance from North Broadway to the south side of Wilson Avenue, mimicking what happened at the Belmont station after it was renovated several years ago. Two auxiliary entrances will also be added, one on the opposite side of Wilson and the other on Sunnyside, near Target.
Susan Ridihalgh, who attended the open house, lives a couple of blocks from Sunnyside and said she would use that entrance when it was completed. She avoids the poorly lit area at night.
The station will also have two elevators, making it the first wheelchair-accessible station between the Addison and Granville stops.
Garland Armstrong said he was a member of a CTA advisory committee for accessibility. The elevators will allow him and his wife, Heather, who uses a wheelchair, to board at Wilson.
"I'm glad they're doing something about it," Heather Armstrong said.
The CTA says it will demolish several empty buildings under the tracks on Wilson Avenue, including the Broadway Mall and the former Rokito's building. In addition, drivers won't need to worry about slamming into track support beams on Broadway. The general manager of the project, John Titzer, said the railway bridge would be engineered so support beams would be located in the sidewalk, not between lanes.
The terra cotta exterior of the old station house will also be restored and a clock tower will be installed.