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New Wilson 'L' Station Now Half Done, Helping Make Uptown A 'Destination'

By Josh McGhee | September 27, 2016 6:06pm
 The $203 million project is now more than 50-percent completed, the CTA said Tuesday.
The $203 million project is now more than 50-percent completed, the CTA said Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Josh McGhee

UPTOWN — Standing atop the freshly opened Wilson Station "L" platform as trains whizzed by in both directions, Ald. James Cappleman recalled the first conversation he had with Mayor Rahm Emanuel after taking over leadership of the 46th Ward.

During the conversation, the rookie alderman said he began to lay out his plan to revitalize Uptown, which focused primarily on rehabbing the CTA station at Wilson Avenue and Broadway.

"It’s vital. It supports the community. And it supports the city of Chicago," Cappleman said, recalling the conversation Tuesday at a media conference announcing the CTA had reached a milestone in the Wilson station reconstruction project, a $203 million overhaul first announced by Emanuel in 2012.

The project, which includes creating a new, fully accessible station and rebuilding track leading to the next station, is more than 50 percent complete, said CTA President Dorval Carter Jr. Crews will begin work on the third phase this week.

So far, the agency has rebuilt two southbound tracks that carry Red and Purple Line express trains and a new platform, which spans 26 feet, making it the widest platform in the city. It's equipped with a translucent cover to protect commuters from harsh weather conditions, the CTA said.

"CTA customers who use the Wilson Station are already noticing the changes occurring from this remarkable project, which is creating a modern accessible station in the heart of Chicago's Uptown that will better serve them and also help generate economic development in the historic neighborhood," he said.

The next phase of construction includes rebuilding the northbound Red Line track and a related elevated structure. The old station platform will also be demolished and rebuilt to eventually serve northbound Red and Purple Line trains, the CTA said.

"The Wilson project is a great example of how CTA is moving into the 21st century," Carter said.

While Carter — who began his career with the CTA as a staff attorney in 1984 and tok a six year hiatus before returning to the agency as president last year — called the project "a sign of great things to come," he said he's already seen its impact.

"One of the first sites I visited when I came back as president was this site, to see the work that is being done at this station. The thing that impressed me the most about what I saw when I came back was the development, the change in this community," Carter said.

The transformation in retail and housing has been "amazing," he said, adding he believed the development has been spurred by the project.

"There’s no question, in my mind, that the dollars we put into infrastructure like this pay back tenfold to the communities that we serve," Carter said.

In 2011, studies showed close to 50 percent of residents in the area didn't own a car, yet close to 50 percent of the residents left the area to do their shopping, Cappleman said.

To revitalize the area and make it a "shopping district that would be a destination place for everyone" the Wilson Station had to be rehabbed, he said.

"Since that time, we have had 18 different businesses come into this area," he said, adding Emerald City Coffee will open Wednesday in the former Magnolia Cafe location at 1224 W. Wilson Ave.

"This will be our fourth independent coffee shop along Wilson. They drove Starbucks out of business. That says so much about what this CTA project has done," Cappleman said.

The area has had "booming development," including a 64-unit apartment building scheduled to be built at the former Stewart School and a 197-unit building slated to be built across Broadway, he said.

The Jerk Stop has been confirmed as the tenant of the FLATS Chicago building at 1132 W. Wilson Ave., just west of the station.

Tuesday's milestone was announced hours after CTA officials met a few blocks north of the station in Edgewater for a public meeting about a transit TIF district billed as the only way to get enough funding for the Red and Purple Line modernization project, commonly referred to as RPM.

Phase one of that project includes overhauling four CTA stations — Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr — adding wider platforms, better lighting and making them fully accessible. It also includes building the Belmont station flyover.

While the project received a lot of support Monday from Edgewater residents, it received mixed reviews from Lakeview and Lincoln Park residents when it was introduced at the first community meeting.

Tuesday morning, Cappleman said the Wilson station was a great "test case" for what the RPM project could mean.

"This has shown clearly that when you rehab an 'L' station like this particular stop, it has a huge impact on the community and also provides more tax revenue. Tax revenue we need as a city," he said.

The Wilson station reconstruction project is scheduled to be finished by late next year.

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