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Red Line Reconstruction: Broadway Support Beams Worry Business Owners

 Transit officials met with the community this summer to discuss one of CTA's largest projects ever.
CTA Public Meeting About Wilson Red Line Reconstruction
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UPTOWN — The $203 million reconstruction of the Wilson Red Line station in Uptown would relocate support beams on North Broadway from the street to the sidewalk, where some local business owners consider them too close for comfort.

Columns on Broadway between Wilson and Leland avenues were the focus of scrutiny at a public meeting hosted in Uptown on Wednesday by the Chicago Transit Authority. The meeting was held to discuss the effects of the project on properties in the Uptown Square Historic District and other historic buildings.

Carole Morey, CTA's vice president for infrastructure, said at the meeting that the decision to move the beams to the sidewalk “was done for structural reasons and for safety reasons.”

“Twenty percent of all traffic fatalities are collisions with fixed objects,” she said, adding that it’s the Chicago Department of Transportation’s policy to avoid putting structures in the street “as much as possible.”

Morey also said CDOT “has a streetscape in development that they are planning for the corridor with bicycle lanes. But to do that they need to create a left turn lane on Broadway, onto Leland going west.”

“They can’t do that if we put a column there,” Morey said.

The Wilson station, located at Wilson Avenue and Broadway, would be the sole Red/Purple Line transfer point between the Belmont and Howard stops, and the first wheelchair-accessible station between the Addison and Granville stations. Plans include the restoration of the station's 90-year-old terra cotta facade and the long-gone clock tower at the former station entrance at the northwest corner of Wilson and Broadway.

Adel Shaw, owner of Spoil Me Hair Salon and Spa in the historic Barry Building at Leland and Broadway has been at the location for two years and said out of the accidents she’s seen in that time span, “maybe one of them,” has resulted from somebody hitting a column. She is concerned that having the columns so close to the salon will hurt the aesthetic and hurt the appeal of her business.

“Yes, I want the renovation of the Wilson stop. But this is very unacceptable,” Shaw said.

Gary Nakai, a representative from the Buddhist Temple of Chicago at 1151 W. Leland Ave., which has been in Uptown since the 1950s, suggested putting a single column in the middle of Broadway at Leland to eliminate the need for columns on the east and west sides of the street. Nakai also questioned safety concerns about the columns causing traffic wrecks.

“If the column wasn't there, then wavering motorists would run into oncoming traffic, too,” Nakai said.

A column just south of the Leland column on the west side of Broadway, at Clifton, also caused concern for Matt and Catherine Denny, owners of Uptown Recording, who sent their lawyer Natalie Spears to the meeting. Spears said that the latest renderings of the project have the beams closer to the studio than in past renderings and accused CTA of being less than forthcoming about how its plan to relocate the beams would look.

“The impact when you put a beam eight feet closer into the ground near a recording studio” causes “serious sound and vibration concerns,” she said. Spears also blasted CTA for only giving a week's notice for the meeting and alleged CTA has dallied in turning over engineering studies showing the impact of the reconstruction.

CTA said a sound study will be included with a pending environmental assessment that will be released later this summer. Officials also promised tools would be used to ensure construction would cease if foundations of nearby buildings were moved by vibrations, and said the design of the station would be better than the next closest Red/Purple transfer stations, Belmont and Fullerton, when it comes to minimizing sound.

The Wilson renovation is expected to be one of the biggest projects ever by the CTA. Ald. James Cappleman (46th) touts it as a catalyst for plans to revitalize an area of the neighborhood rife with empty storefronts and vagrancy.

CTA said it would pick a contractor by early August with hopes of starting the reconstruction effort in the fall.

Michael Connelly, CTA vice president of service planning and scheduling, said comments from Wednesday and from future meetings this summer will be incorporated into the agency's environmental assessment, which is also pending.

"This is a part of the environmental process, this dialog back and forth, so that if there are to be changes to what are designs that have been put together, those changes would be included in the final documentation," Connelly said.