Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Number One Again (Literally)

We'd hoped not to win the trifecta, but -- yay -- Wilson has been awarded the not-very-coveted "Crust Station" Award for the worst CTA station for the third year running.

Going Public's readers "awarded" Wilson the prize for the station's "dirt, urine smell, graffiti, vacant storefronts, safety concerns and lack of elevator."  (Hard to argue with anyone's reasoning.)

There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, however. The same article says:
Last year, the CTA board voted to use $3 million in tax-increment financing—or TIF—money intended to promote redevelopment in certain areas in the city to rehab the Wilson stop. Retailers vacated storefronts in preparation for this work, which hasn't begun.

The CTA said the money has not yet been allocated for the project. The agency expects to begin construction in 2012, pending the release of funds.

Uptown Ald. James Cappleman (46th) called the renovation his No. 1 priority and said he's pushing to move the project faster. "We need retail in that area desperately," Cappleman told GP. "We have to move quickly on this."
Here's hoping -- really hoping -- this is the last year we get to play host to the worst station.

You can read the RedEye article here and the Going Public article here.


  1. I believe Alderman Cappleman realizes that he will be judged on this issue more than just about anything else he does in the next 3 and a half years. So yes, I think he is making is a major priority.

  2. Hard not to feel that any money spent on Wilson or any other station in Uptown for that matter, will be a total waste. The Sec 8 and SRO crowd will trash them and have the urine smell back in no time.

  3. Alek - Unless of course they figure out a way to provide secure public restrooms - something that should be available in "major" CTA stations anyway (and they WERE, once upon a time).

  4. "I believe Alderman Cappleman realizes that he will be judged on this issue more than just about anything else he does in the next 3and a half years"

    It's pretty far back behind public safety and the overwhelming burden of social services on my list.

  5. You're right alek. waste of money. Lets just never try and fix anything in the neighborhood. Just leave it all as is. (if you can't sense it, that is called sarcasm).

    And maybe you are right. Maybe it will get trashed. But you have to keep fixing it, keep cleaning it, keep improving it, just like all the other problem issues in the neighborhood if you want things to get better. Keep working on them.

    Change doesn't happen easily or without great effort.

  6. I think it a bit of a stretch to assume the Sec8/SRO crowd is wholly to blame for the "ambiance" of Wilson.

    Sec8/SRO buildings do have restrooms afterall.

    I'd assume most violators are the types who refuse/ignore public aid and wander about the world on their own.

    I'll spare the details of the story, but I recall once seeing a young white male [enter rear facing bodily function verb here] on the platform.

    Point: everybody poos

  7. Alek,

    My point was that sense so much of the community has been asking for a rehab of this station and has gotten no where with the previous person in the Alderman's office. James will be judged by many on how he handles the problem. But sense so much crime happens around this particular area, a serious rehab of it and the surrounding vacant store fronts would have a rather dramatic effect on crime as well improving the entire look of the middle of Uptown.

    But your right Alek, we should just leave everything as is and put our attention to first bulldozing all that Sec 8 housing and the SRO's first. All the problems in the City can be traced directly to them right?

    But hey sense you have a "list" I am sure you have been in all those community meetings helping the Alderman work on his Ward Master Plan. I am sure he loves hearing all about what problems you are willing to devote you time and energy to help him solve.

    Or do you just talk about your "list" on blogs?

  8. @uptown veg

    I get your point and a renovated station would be nice but i can't help feel the positives impacts of a renovation will be short lived if the immediate surrounding area is still a crime hotbed populated by littering vagrants and addicts.

    I also don't buy the premise that rehabbing the station automatically fills vacant storefronts. We have plenty of vacant storefronts in beautiful buildings just north. They are vacant because businesses want nothing to do with the violent hot mess that is Wilson and Broadway.

    I never said the Wilson stop wasn't worth improving, I'm just saying that unless it's done in tamdem with some other pressing issues, it will be a major disappointment.

    Anyways we're spinning our wheels here, we've been hearing about these improvements for a long time, no sense going on about it until it actually happens and that won't be anytime soon.

  9. Apparently from the UU graphic, one can catch crabs at the Wilson 'L' stop. That's pretty crusty. =]

  10. Am I the only one that thinks the Sheridan stop is also pretty crusty, if not more so than Wilson?

  11. @MicaelaR207: Yes.

    @UU: And the great new deck planks installed a few years ago on the platform are warping and pulling up, too. Just south of the south exit canopy. Possibly more. Just wait, and some gangbanger will trip on it and cut his tootsie...Brendan Shiller will then sue CTA, settle for a million, and the settlement will be paid out of the TIF fund. The gangbanger will buy a Mercedes to park in front of the CHA buildings on Racine before he uses it for...his coffin.

  12. I live in an SRO and have never urinated on the CTA, I'm also not the guy Yo saw that lovely day.

    Your low-income neighbors are equally grossed out by such things.

    The lack of an elevator means many disabled residents can't even use Wilson station in its current condition and need to take a bus to Granville or two buses to Belmont.

  13. @MicaelaR207: I second the crustiness of the Sheridan station, but Wilson still takes the cake.

    I will say, I was surprised when I found out the Sheridan station fell under Tom Tunney's jurisdiction (Thank you Ald. Cappleman for telling me so) given how nice the addison station is (at least relatively).

    The other day when I saw the cameras going up, I actually thought they were finally repairing the gaping hole in the ceiling...but alas, we'll just have to continue with the rain-water catching buckets for now.

  14. There are no shortage of good reasons to fix up Wilson station.

    But here is one that I haven't heard since the last class I took at Truman.

    Truman College is a fully-accessible and ADA compliant city college. While disabled students can do the multi-bus-switch-a-roo it is an obstacle and not always practical.

    The lack of ADA access (When was that law passed....Pres.Clinton?)is shameful not only towards our disabled neighbors but to all disabled in Chicago who seek an education...to better themselves and become independent.

    I get the impression from Ald. James that if it were up to him the work would have begun yesterday.

    But it is not. He can pressure of course, but the CTA is like a Soviet Union-esque bureaucracy. They are easily distracted and wasteful.

    So we all need to keep the heat on 'em!

  15. When are Uptown supporters (and YOU, Uptown Update!) going to realize that the way to improve Uptown is not by trashing it for the rest of the city/world? Who is going to want to move here and buy your condo or invest here when you actively go out of your way to broadcast Uptown's problems? (By your advocacy campaign to vote for the Wilson el as the crustiest).

    If you want to improve Uptown, I fully support pressuring the alderman, city government, local property owners, the police, etc., to do the specific things they are supposed to do to make Uptown a better place to live (like fix the Wilson el). But aggressively promoting Uptown as a dump to the rest of the world is not really going to have any postive effect at all. A negative effect? ABSOLUTELY.

    Lets try being PRO-uptown if we want to make things better here. There have been many positive changes in the 24 years I've lived in this community--the good changes didn't come about because we trashed the place ourselves, but lots of the bad ones have.

  16. Oh, please.

    Let's just pretend everything's great and not address the problems. Crime? There's no crime. A craptacular el? Hey, it's okay.

    It's exactly that attitude that got the previous alderman ushered into retirement.

    Uptown has a lot of lovely stuff (see most of yesterday's posts) and we highlight those. We've chosen to live here and I personally wouldn't live anywhere else (well, maybe the tropics in February).

    But we DO have problems, and we're not going to stick our heads in the sand and pretend they aren't there.

    Taken the Brown Line and gotten off at the DePaul station and gone into a new Dominicks? Been to the new Apple CTA station?

    It's not so much trashing Uptown as looking at what other communities have and saying WHY NOT US? Why should we just shut up and accept a Crust-Station and 20 years of broken promises to improve it?

    Think how sweet the victory will be when Wilson is NOT the winner of the annual lousiest station award.

  17. Many people use the types of problems in a neighborhood to assess if they want to move there, certainly. But they are quite a few that put more attention on who lives there now and how involved are they in working together to figure things out. UU does a wonderful job of pointing people in the right direction of how they can help. Many Chicago neighborhoods wish they had a local blog that could clarify info and give them info about what is going on. The local news and paper is not enough anymore. Makes you wonder how much stuff got missed 15 years ago when that was all people had.

  18. I support UU's eforts to make our community a better place, and we are a better community for what you have done.

    But if you re-read my second paragraph, I didn't say the el is fine, or that crime is fine, or that the status quo is fine or that we shouldn't have a nice Dominicks, etc.. I am ALL IN FAVOR of making Uptown a better place, in all of the ways you mention, using whatever effective tools we have available.

    What I take issue with is your approach of going out of your way to spread bad news about Uptown outside of our own area.

    Really? Do you think people are going to be drawn to Uptown to live, to rent, to own, to shop, to dine, to party, to invest? (All of the things that I think EVERYONE agrees that Uptown needs) when you go out of your way to put Uptown at the top of any "Worst" list in the city?

    Being at the top of that list isn't going to fix the Wilson El. Holding those responsible is what it will take, and which I strongly support. But in taking this particular approach, you continue to spread the word that Uptown is a place to avoid, not to support.

  19. If anyone thought I was exageratting about the CTA/Soviet Politburo, this is an excerpt from a 3 year old Trib story. The story is very current thouogh because tyhe hole is still there....

    And to think more then $100 million is cost-over runs alone! Wow!

    There is the Wilson/Sheridan/Lawerence/Argyle money....look I found It!!!!! In a hole!

    "A combined $213 million has been spent on the project, yet there is not much more than a massive hole in the ground to show for it."


  20. MicaelaR207: I agree, the Sheridan stop is horrible, that is why it still made the "Crusty" list at #5. Since the station is in Tunney's ward, there isn't much James can do about it.

  21. One thing I have noticed re. saving money. Streetlamps are on even in bright daylight. Why is this, and can Cappleman help stop it?

  22. Being at the top of that list isn't going to fix the Wilson El.

    It might, actually.

    I just came through Wilson, and there were bright yellow safety vest clad people crawling all over the place.

    And Clean Slate was out on the street level.

    Your points about not drawing out the low lights has merit, but as CN noted, not bringing them up doesn't get ya much traction, either.

    UU does a good job balancing the good and the bad, in my humble opinion.

    What it really boils down to, to get anything done around here means that someone has to be embarrassed. Bad PR has to be part of the equation.

    Wilson went ignored for the better part of 2 decades because people accepted it as the status quo.

    With Wilson 3peating as the worst L stop, the CTA simply HAS to take notice and respond, or fear even more damage to their credibility (if that's possible, really).

    As UptownVeg noted, and as recent history has been proving: a strong, vocal and engaged community can push forth the types of improvements that may lure many prospective buyers into the area.

    In short: if people don't point out the problems, no one at the city is going to be motivated to do anything.

    Trust me on this one. I've had many a conversation with well placed folks at the CTA, and when Wilson "won" the first time, they giggled. When it won the 2nd time, they said they were aware and money had been allocated. With the 3peat, they are simply out of excuses and I'd be surprised if we don't see something happen within a reasonable amount of time.

    Forrest Claypool is savvy enough to recognize what the ramifications would be to him, politically, should Wilson "win" this award for a 4th time.

    The flip side of all of this is that when these improvements are completed, we all need to celebrate. Which, I don't see as being a problem.

  23. Wilson deserves the bad publicity, if only for 20 years of broken promises.

    How many times did Rep. Larry McKeon say "I've secured funding! Work will start any day now." Well, may he rest in peace, but geez, what happened to all that money he secured? In the meantime, $10 million of TIF money that could have gone to the Wilson station went to a parking structure -- yes, parking, right next to an L station. What's the name of that parking structure? Why it's named after Larry McKeon! If he truly meant to fund the improvement of the L station, he must be spinning in his grave.

    Then there's 2007, when the developer of Wilson Yard promised: "The architecturally significant structure will be completely restored on the outside and completely new on the inside. It will be brand, spanking new." Yeah, Peter Holsten, I'm sure you meant that at the time, but I wonder how you feel about the L now that your offices are right down the street from it, taking up retail space in Wilson Yard?

    As far as every single Uptown station being handicapped inaccessible, in an area where so many people are elderly and physically challenged, there are no words. Well, I can think of one: Shameful.