UPTOWN — As wrecking balls knocked down a variety of buildings this week as part of a $203 million rehab of the Wilson Red Line station, residents and businesses had one fear: Would the demolition send rats into the streets?
So far, the answer seems to be no.
“We have not noticed any increase in rats at this point. Haven’t seen any difference, actually," said Brady Gott, managing director of Clean Slate, the general contractor for Uptown's Special Service Area 34, which cleans the streets in the business district.
A spokeswoman for the office of 46th Ward Ald. James Cappleman said they hadn't received any word from residents or businesses about rat population issues.
The CTA had warned Uptown residents that a mass migration of rats and rodents was probable during the Wilson Red Line station renovations.
CTA spokesman Jeff Wilson told DNAinfo Chicago earlier this year that the agency had a program to control the rodent population during all phases of its rebuild of the Prohibition-era station. The project is set to wrap in 2017.
This week, wrecking balls and backhoes knocked down several old brick buildings next to, north and south of the station buildings, including the Wilson-Broadway Mall.
Now that their homes have been razed, are rat sightings up in the surrounding neighborhood?
“You know, it’s hard to say,” said Jeff Naranjo of Uptown Ace Hardware, located directly under the CTA tracks on Broadway.
“This is the time of year when [buying traps and poison] increases anyway, so I can’t say if it’s increased more than normal. When it gets cold, they more or less start coming in.”
Feedback from the community indicates rat sightings haven't surged, CTA spokeswoman Catherine Hosinski said
“We have heard from the alderman’s office that they have been ‘impressed’ by the extensive rat abatement efforts by CTA and its general contractor around the Wilson project,” she said.
Naranjo said it would be hard to tell if there's been a spike, because people who feed birds in the neighborhood unintentionally feed the rats, too.
"They want to feed the birds, and you can’t stop them. The police don’t ticket them," Naranjo said. "So that definitely contributes to the rat problem. The better fed they are, the more they can breed."
As demolition continues at Broadway and Wilson avenues, next on the chopping block is the H.W. Rubloff Building, a commercial building that housed the Majestic for Men store during the commercial boom of the 1920s.
The Rubloff building will be dismantled, its facade reconstructed, and the building’s terra cotta replaced and or repaired, according to the CTA. Its footprint will be used for four new columns to support the new track structure.
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