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Wilson Red Line Rehab: Some Businesses Don't Want Support Beams on Sidewalk

By Adeshina Emmanuel | August 30, 2013 11:00am | Updated on August 30, 2013 12:30pm
 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 — Matt Denny has been operating Uptown Recording in the shadow of the CTA Wilson Red Line station since 2001, but he fears new changes to the stop could hurt his sound — and his bottom line.

The $203 million rehab planned for the Wilson Red Line station would eliminate rusted and crumbling support columns in the street on North Broadway between west Wilson and Leland avenues in favor of columns on the sidewalk. That includes one column that Denny fears will put him out of business by bringing extra noise and vibration to his studio at 4656 N. Clifton Ave.

Chris Bushell, CTA's chief infrastructure officer, said the design for Broadway makes the street safer for drivers and pedestrians while providing the station with "required structural support."

But Denny and other critics don't want the sidewalk columns.

They accuse CTA of showing the community misleading renderings of how North Broadway would look back in October, making "underhanded" changes to the design that will hurt several properties and businesses and not discussing the modifications with the community beforehand.

"CTA is plowing ahead, and the majority of the community doesn't even know what they're planning,” said Denny, an Uptown resident who lives with his wife and five children in the same building as the studio. "The CTA is pulling a bait-and-switch."

CTA has pushed back the deadline for contractor bids from August to September, delayed work planned for September until November or December and "extended its community outreach efforts" about the column issue.

Noise and vibration studies will be completed this fall.

The agency said it is still on schedule to start major construction in the spring, but that's contingent on "no further delays."

Like plans for a beefed-up entertainment district in Uptown, the Wilson rehab is touted as a catalyst for revitalization and economic development.

The station is known as one of Chicago's crustiest.

Broadway between Leland and Wilson suffers from vagrancy and a gloomy atmosphere not helped by poor lighting, deteriorated support columns in the street, and, of course, pigeons.

The crumbling concrete bridge spanning Broadway and crossing Leland has six support columns in the street. And about nine metal support columns are in the street between Leland and Wilson.

CTA plans to build a new bridge without any columns in the street, take the current metal columns out of the street and put a little less than 10 new metal columns with concrete bases on the sidewalk on both sides of Broadway.

CTA plans to add two 10-car platforms, widen platforms to 26 feet, and create a Red/Purple Line transfer point, among other renovations included in the 33-month rehab. The relocation of the columns also fits into city plans for a streetscape and protected bike lanes on Broadway, officials said, emphasizing that the designs shown in October were incomplete.

North of the Clifton support column that has Denny livid, recent designs show a column not included in designs shown at the open house in October, about 8 feet from the historic Barry Building, 4660-68 N. Broadway. Spoil Me Salon is a ground-level retail tenant at the building, which would have two columns on the nearby sidewalk.

Spoil Me owner Adel Shaw is one of several business owners who object to the columns on Broadway.

Barry Building managing partner Mike Krueger said he feared the 32-foot columns connected to I-beams and cross girders will reduce sunlight in his building, bring more noise and vibrations and become instant eyesores. The effect would repel retail and residential tenants alike, Krueger said.

“I don’t want to delay anything," Krueger said. “But what I would like to do is have CTA actually work with us, not just ram this down our throats, and actually figure out these design alternatives."

Bushell said CTA "has considered a number of alternatives" but he didn't specify any. He said other options didn't provide enough structural support or would have taken the project over budget.

Opponents of the columns met with transportation officials several times this summer but said officials have been rigid and won't alter plans or explain what alternatives to the columns were on the table to begin with.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th), said he believed there could be further delays “because of the column placement." The Wilson reconstruction is a huge and expensive endeavor "and we want to make sure we get this project done right," Cappleman said.

"We have one chance to do it. It's worth it," Cappleman said.

Before moving on and awarding the Wilson contract, CTA is waiting to hear from the Federal Transit Administration about whether the project satisfies federal standards in regard to the effects on historic properties. CTA also is seeking federal approval of a pending environmental assessment that must be submitted this fall, CTA said.