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As Damen Station Closes, Wicker Park Commuters Dash Off to New Routes

By Alisa Hauser | October 20, 2014 9:23am | Updated on October 20, 2014 9:27am
 The CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station at 1558 N. Damen Ave. in Wicker Park closed Monday. The station, which is being renovated, is scheduled to reopen on Dec. 22.
CTA Damen Blue Line Station in Wicker Park Closes
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WICKER PARK — Throngs of commuters dashed off to alternative routes early Monday as they digested the news that the CTA Damen Blue Line "L" station would be closed through Dec. 22 as part of a renovation project.

"This is going to be a big pain in the a--.  I had no idea," said Joe Sopha, a 25-year-old financial analyst who lives a few blocks from the Wicker Park station at 1558 N. Damen Ave.

Alisa Hauser says she witnessed a few "mini freak outs" this morning:

After leaving the station, which closed Monday and is fenced off for construction, Sopha walked briskly down Milwaukee Avenue, headed to the Division "L" station at 1200 N. Milwaukee Ave, a 0.7-mile,  approximately 15-minute walk.

Sopha could have taken the CTA No. 56 Milwaukee Ave. bus but preferred to walk, while other commuters, such as Kate Burnham, 24, headed to the nearest bus stop, just south of the intersection, to get to the Division Station.

"I won't be late; I give myself plenty of time to get to work," Burnham said.

Standing in front of the station, Chris Chandler, a consultant who had been out of town for several weeks and was returning to work Monday, said that he would probably going to be "Ubering it" to work, referring to the ride service.

"I knew it was closing but forgot it was today. I haven't made a plan yet and need coffee before I can think about this," Chandler said.

Standing in front of the closed station, a CTA customer service worker said, "Some [commuters] are mad, some are surprised" by the temporary closure, the result of the project the agency has dubbed "Your New Blue."

The station is scheduled to reopen on Dec. 22.

As part of the "Your New Blue" project, the Damen station will undergo renovations including structural repairs, improved lighting, signage and improvements to the exterior and interior of the station house.

The Damen station closure comes just as Logan Square's California "L" station reopened Thursday after being closed for renovations since Sept. 9.

The CTA is advising that commuters take the No. 56 Milwaukee Avenue bus to get to the two nearest stations, Western for folks headed north and Division for those headed Downtown.

During the renovations, the CTA plans to provide additional No. 56 and No. 70 buses on weekends and weekdays.

Workers at shops next to the station said it is too early to tell how the closure will impact sales.

"I feel like we are usually more busy around this time but I haven't checked the numbers yet," said Jon Becker, a supervisor at Stan's Donuts at 1560 N. Damen Ave., which is next to the station.

On the opposite side of the station, Rob Santel, a barista at La Colombe, a coffee shop at 1552 N. Damen Ave., said he feels like enough regulars will still come into the shop during the closure.

"We had six people come in right off the bat as soon as we opened," Becker said.

Late Sunday, on the evening before the closure, David Arizinamini, manager of Blue Line Lounge and Grill at 1548 N. Damen Ave., which is named for the train line that runs next to the restaurant, said he was hoping the renovations would be more substantial.

"If you are going to spend two months doing something, go big, put an elevator in, make this area pop," Arizinamini said.

In September, the CTA confirmed that the renovations would not include an elevator.

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