WICKER PARK — Renovations aimed at making the Damen Blue Line "L" station in Wicker Park modern and safer are now underway, with its reopening scheduled for Dec. 22.
"It is more of a life extension [to the aging station]," Bob Wittmann, the CTA's vice president of construction, said while at the station at 1558 N. Damen Ave. this week.
The $13.6 million project includes replacing an old and leaky roof, installing new flooring and a new wood platform, and upgrading lighting, water and sewer systems.
The nine-week closure, which began earlier this month, will be the longest amount of time that the station, built in 1895, has been closed in its history, Wittmann said.
Previously, the CTA was only able to do "patch work" and quick touch-ups but nothing extensive, Wittmann said.
The Damen project is part of a larger $25.6 million contract awarded to F. H. Paschen for upgrades to the Damen, Western and California stations.
Since Wicker Park's station is a historic landmark, all of the renovation plans needed the blessing of both the city and state landmark commissions, Wittmann said.
Even the stairway is considered historic, as well as the steel used in the canopy above the station.
Aware of the impact of the station's closure on the approximately 7,000 daily riders, as well as surrounding businesses, Wittmann said crews are working around-the-clock to ensure that the station will reopen on Dec. 22.
Wittmann said that if an elevator were to be installed, it would require the acquisition of real estate adjacent to the platform because there would need to be an elevator on both sides of the tracks and the platform is not wide enough to fit an elevator.
Catherine Hosinski, a CTA spokeswoman, said "there would need to more time to analyze the situation and more funding" if an elevator were to be added.
Station and platform upgrades will also include wider gates, more turnstiles, bike racks and public art (to be added after the station reopens). There will be about 35 percent more space in the entry way, with the removal of a concession area.
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