To echo Etta James, AT LAST.
Today was the ceremonial ground-breaking for the new sorely-needed Wilson L station. We've heard promises for improvements and renovations over and over for the past 20 or 30 years (from everyone from State Rep. Larry McKeon to then-CTA President Ron Huberman). It's finally happening. No collapsed ceilings, no "Crust Station" awards, finally a station that can accommodate our community's elderly and handicapped because it will be ADA-compliant.
There was a press conference at 1:30 today inside the main (Gerber) building, featuring CTA Chairman Terry Peterson, CTA President Forrest Claypool, 46th Ward Alderman James Cappleman, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. You can see a video of the whole thing here, but here are some of the points made by each speaker:
CTA Chairman Terry Peterson:
- The last station house was built in 1923 -- 91 years ago.
- "Like the vibrant Uptown community, the Wilson station is in the middle of a Renaissance."
- Most of the prep work is done.
- 550 good-paying jobs will be created for new Wilson Station.
- The "investment here is long overdue" -- not only will it help riders, but it will help commercial and residential development.
- Wilson is one of the worst stations in the system. If you need proof of that, go over to the Wilson entrance to see what people deal with every day.
- $203 million project, will be a transfer station for both Red and Purple Lines.
- Historic Gerber Building will be retained and refurbished.
- "Bulky set of beams" that cast shadows over the commercial area on Broadway will be moved to off-Broadway and will let sun shine onto Broadway stores. Safer for pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
- This will ultimately be an economic anchor for Uptown that will lead to transit-oriented development (TOD) around the station. Quite a few TODs are already on the drawing board, and CTA will work closely with Ald. Cappleman and the community on those TODs and the jobs and economic developments that come with them.
- The Wilson rehab and the significant number of track and signal upgrades that will go with it will speed up the ride on the North Side.
- A campaign promise was to do everything possible to rehab the Wilson L. Particularly important since more than 50% of residents in 46th Ward don't own a car and rely on public transportation.
- Wilson L was voted CTA's Crust Station three consecutive years.
- When Rahm was elected, he asked him what he wanted for Uptown, and he said the Wilson L was his first priority. He was hoping for a $50 million budget for the rehab, which was about double the amount of funding that had been promised ten years prior, but had never materialized. Six months later, Rahm said, "I got you the money for the Wilson L rehab."
- A lot of work went on behind the scenes to make this happen. CTA, Forrest Claypool, he and Rahm Emanuel worked with the community to make sure it happened right.
- Chicago needs a 21st century transportation system for a 21st century economy, and a vibrant neighborhood economy.
- Noted that right after the plans for the new Wilson L were announced, new economic activity has been happening around the station.
- Mass Transit hubs are economic hubs in Chicago. 550 people will be going to work here. Property values and economic activity will both go up with a new station, have already started with the anticipation of the new station.
- Last Wilson Station was created in 1923. Like a fine wine, it's ready to be corked and it's time start all over again.
- The new station will have openness, no overhang, no darkness, it will be welcoming, the literal key to the commercial and residential development coming to Uptown.
- Pillars moving off of street, and Broadway will have a whole new appearance.
- Thanked Ald. Cappleman, Terry Peterson, Forrest Claypool, residents of Uptown, and workers on the project.
- The "old way" was to make a pledge for $25 million that never showed up. Now, nearly 10 times that amount has been obtained and this is the ground-breaking.
The new Wilson Station will feature contemporary architecture, including steel-framed, translucent canopies and a historic restoration of the 1923 stationhouse. There will be three entrance/exits to the station, including the accessible main station entrance on the south side of Wilson Avenue, one auxiliary entry/exit on the north side of Wilson Avenue and an auxiliary entrance on Sunnyside Avenue, which will have ADA-compliant ramps.To sum up, we are so happy to see long-promised improvements happen. To quote the Mayor, "Let's get started, and let's get finished!"
The station will feature two island platforms to allow convenient cross-platform transfers between Red Line and Purple Line Express service – making Wilson the only transfer station between the Howard and Belmont stations.
Additional features and amenities of the station to enhance customer convenience and comfort will include numerous security cameras throughout the station and platforms, CTA Train Tracker displays, wider stairwells, new escalators, security cameras, additional bike parking and other improvements.
The track structure relocation and reconstruction will significantly improve the pedestrian environment on Broadway and Wilson by removing many of the unsightly and ‘L’ structure support columns on Wilson Avenue, Broadway Street and surrounding sidewalks, creating a more pleasant, open streetscape. The project is also expected to generate new transit-oriented business development.
Additionally, the new station will feature new public artwork from internationally acclaimed artist Cecil Balmond. The design will be created with input from the community surrounding the Wilson Station and installed once construction is complete.