LAKEVIEW — When the CTA released renderings of the Belmont flyover two years ago, the images marked a stark contrast between a redeveloped Wrigleyville and one left barren after construction.
As to what that transit-oriented redevelopment could look like, neighbors will have their first chance at supplying input Thursday.
In the first of three rounds of public meetings concerning the Red-Purple Modernization project, the CTA will meet with residents about the Belmont flyover from 6-8 p.m. at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre, 3656 N. Halsted St.
Last year, the CTA began to acquire the 16 properties it will need near the Belmont "L" station to add a Brown Line flyover — officially referred to as a bypass — that officials say will increase capacity on the Red and Purple lines by more than 30 percent.
Along with the flyover, the first phase of the Red-Purple Modernization includes rebuilding the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr rail stations and more than a mile of tracks. The CTA will meet with the public regarding that portion of the project from 6-8 p.m. May 11 at Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway.
Highlighted corridors show transit-oriented development districts in Lakeview, Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater where CTA officials hope to see redevelopment following construction for the Red-Purple Modernization. [Provided/CTA]
With last-minute federal funding locked down in January, the Red-Purple Modernization is moving forward. The $2.1 billion project is expected to start in late 2018 and take four or five years to complete.
The federal pilot program offers grants up to $2 million for transit-oriented redevelopment that addresses gentrification and displacement issues that come with projects that focus on increasing public transportation capacity.
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The public meetings are a new step in the process for the CTA, which is participating in a transit-oriented development pilot program through the Federal Transit Administration.
Dubbed the community planning process, the meetings are the result of requests from neighbors to have a detailed redevelopment plan to avoid leaving empty lots in the project's wake.
After soliciting advice from neighbors, the CTA will begin drawing up a transit-oriented development plan, which the agency called "a proactive effort ... to create a community-driven guide for future development."
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"One thing we'll need is a grocery store, a place to get milk and buy food," said Adam Rosa, president of Hawthorne Neighbors, a Lakeview neighborhood group.
"Our main concern is when they look to demolish buildings at Clark and Wilton, what happens to those spaces? Because redevelopment isn't going to come until the flyover is complete," said Rosa. "It's important to consider short-term impacts [and] how to activate the space."
Rosa and a coalition of other neighbors who live near the Belmont "L" station strongly opposed the Belmont flyover from its earliest stages, which included plans to acquire 16 existing buildings as early as 2014.
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At least some of their frustration stemmed from what neighbors called a broken compromise involving the patch of gravel outside the Belmont "L" station that remains vacant despite plans to put in on the market for the past decade.
During a March meeting among the CTA and community "stakeholders," Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Maureen Martino said officials should be looking to make the area feel less residential and more like "a tourism destination," she said.
"We don't want it to look like suburbia in the middle of the entertainment district," said Martino.
With the renovations already underway at Wrigley Field, developers should be thinking about adding hotels, drawing more young residents and embracing the entertainment district with rock or blues clubs, she said.
In November, the chamber took control of the Wrigleyville's 2017 property tax budget and promised that cosmetic improvements, along with crime reduction, would be top priorities in the immediate future.
For some, public forums on the contentious Belmont flyover have fallen short of expectations in the past. Back in June 2015, about a hundred people met at the Center on Halsted to discuss the project, and several left disappointed with the results.
"We're here waiting for there to be a community process — we think we should have a say in the future of our neighborhood," Steve Johnson, who lives on the 3200 block of North Wilton Avenue, said at the time. "Instead the CTA is just putting out this propaganda."