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Neighbors of Belmont Flyover Fear Project Would 'Destroy' Clark Street

By Ariel Cheung | May 21, 2015 6:18am

LAKEVIEW — After the release of updated renderings and new information about the Red-Purple line modernization plan, neighbors bordering the proposed Belmont station flyover refused to support the project.

Hawthorne Neighbors plan to insist on a meeting with the Chicago Transit Authority to discuss the flyover, which they fear will "destroy those two or three blocks and destroy development," said Terri Hanley, a member of the group opposing the flyover.

Earl Fenner, whose North Wilton Avenue home is one of 16 buildings that the CTA plans to acquire and demolish, said he felt the CTA had failed to be up front with its plans for the project.

"We acknowledge there are parts of the plan that are really good, and something has to be done, but there seems to be this [attitude] of, 'We're not going to show our cards, and we're only going to do what the government absolutely requires us to do, no more no less,'" Fenner said.

Renderings released Tuesday show what the Brown Line flyover would look like at the Belmont station. [Provided/CTA]

Adam Rosa, Hawthorne Neighbors president, initially suggested residents present the CTA with a list of potential alternatives to the more detrimental aspects of the project.

Instead of demolishing 16 properties, he said, perhaps the existing structures could be shortened to make room for the flyover but preventing those affected from losing their homes or properties. They could also request the CTA pay for neighborhood beautification like parks or plazas to lessen the blow, he said.

"This would really let neighbors weigh in and formalize ideas of what to do with this big project. It's an approach that may not be putting all our energy into trying to stop it, but figuring out how do we create a plan that looks at different scenarios," Rosa said.

Here's a track level view of the engineering animation...

Here's a street view version of the engineering animation...

But a majority of neighbors sided with Ellen Hughes, a neighbor and organizer of the Coalition to Stop the Belmont Flyover. Before Hawthorne Neighbors make a concession plan, she said, they should try to prevent the flyover from being built at all.

"I think [Rosa's] idea is great if we lose, but don't call yourself a loser yet. We've been in the neighborhood for 30 years, and every year it's been better and better. We can lose 30 years of success of Clark Street, and it won't be fixable after" the flyover, Hughes said.

Others supported Rosa's idea, with neighbor Steve Johnson saying the CTA should be amenable to neighbors getting to "really craft that vision," and Lee Berenbaum recommending the group demand a meeting with CTA representatives.

"I think we should really stick it to the CTA and tell them, 'You pick the time, and we'll show up downtown.' To expect them to come to [Lakeview], they'll always say no. So we say pick any hour of any day, and if they say 3 o'clock on a Tuesday, we'll be there," Berenbaum said.

Ariel Cheung says some feel the project isn't worth the costs:

Rosa said CTA officials were hesitant to attend any neighborhood meetings, preferring to meet in private with board members while allowing the public to comment through written letters or at a June 3 public hearing at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St.

But with past promises of redevelopment left unfulfilled, neighbors aren't sure they'll willing to take the risk. An "ugly" gravel patch going to seed has vexed neighbors for years, despite CTA promises a decade ago that the residential properties would go up for sale in 2009.

"They will promise us lots of things right now, because they're hot to make this flyover. But it'll be a different cast of characters at the top when they're done, and they'll say, 'We're a different CTA now. We didn't promise that, that was five or six years ago, so it's not our problem anymore," said Bob Hughes, who joined his wife at the meeting.

Neighbors also considered contacting U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who authored the Core Capacity program under which the CTA can apply for federal grants as an existing transit system.

Redevelopment would be vital to keep the Lakeview neighborhood flourishing, neighbors say. This rendering depicts the northwest view from Clark Street and Buckingham Place with and without redevelopment. [CTA]
This rendering of the southwest view from School Street and Wilton Avenue depicts the flyover and potential redevelopment, which would be independent of the CTA's plans. [CTA]

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