Saturday, September 15, 2012

Could Wilson Be The CTA's Greenest Station?

The complete rehab of the Wilson Red Line station is a good opportunity for it to be a "Model of our energy future," according to the blog CTA Station Watch. It says: 
The design and reconstruction of the Wilson CTA station offers a unique opportunity to combine renewable energy with historic site renovation to create a “green and golden” transportation model that would not only be an enduring asset to the Uptown community but could also set a high standard for future public infrastructure investment in Chicago.  
Easy to overlook given its dilapidated condition is the fact that the station has already achieved two significant environmental victories. First, it serves 5,600 incoming passengers each weekday and weekend ridership is growing as ever more people choose public transit, bikes, walking, taxis and carsharing over private car use. Second, having weathered many storms, the 90-year-old Gerber building with its grand lobby and terra-cotta fa├žade still exists!
Read the entire article here with its suggestions of solar panels, rain gardens and bike racks.  We especially found appealing the suggestion that Uptown's big three theaters (Uptown, Riviera and Aragon) follow the Wilson station's lead in reducing energy costs.  It's an intriguing way to think about the implications of the rehab and what it can mean for all of Uptown for the next century.

There are two other good articles related to this piece:


  1. Unusual opportunity today to learn more about what "green" means & meet reps from green organizations & businesses from all over the city:

    Accelerate 77 Share Fair today Sept. 15 at Truman College, 10 AM to 4 PM.

    Easy to stop by when out & about!

  2. Thanks for posting this and especially for the link about the benefits of green walls in filtering pollution. That means my alley fence plantings of grapevines and ivy are doing double duty, absorbing rainwater while triple-filtering the particulates from the passing garbage trucks and cars.

    Maybe it's time to start guerrilla planting on the neighbor's alley dirt strips.

  3. There's been a wonderful exchange of ideas about promoting sustainability. If you don't compost yet, it's never too late to start.

  4. Accelerate 77 share fair was great, very cool to see what is happening city wide as far as sustainability projects are concerned.

    Wilson possibly becoming the bright and shinny "green" beacon for public transportation excites the baJesus out of me! We don't hear enough about setting the bar high or inspiring through design, usually the same ol' functionality within a fixed budget rig-a-marole, BORING!! People want inspiration and green spaces. Just dumping money into a rehab so it will last another 100 years is meaningless and I say why the hell bother? I'd like to see the Wilson stop engage Uptown, it's regular riders, the city and the country. It shouldn't be just about new rails, wider platforms, an elevator etc etc but about people, the future and the way we want to live.

  5. The station should be about revitalizing the areas economic situation, making a safe place where commuters do not feel threatened and used as a catalyst for further area rehab. It should not be a place where we throw millions of tax payers money into a 2013 vision of Shillers "Fish Farm" Green is good, but should absolutely not be the driving force of this rehab.... If it can be done without wasting tax payer money and show a real benefit, perfect. But otherwise, that tax payer money - of which one has a serious, grown up fudiciary responsibility to use - should be focused on safety and economic development of the area...

  6. Alderman, is there a place in the ward where those without personal access to land can bring table scraps etc for well-tended composting?

    Also, is there a ward greenery committee? Tree care in the city requires licensed service & permit, but it'd be great to inventory our trees like the 47th ward tree committee is planning & start working towards methodical care. The drought has really taken its toll this year, esp. in areas with little permeable pavement. (Imagine a committee would help, too, in getting a better sense of expenses & scope in preparation for participatory budgeting next year.)

    Gorilla plants are doing well along many alley strips in Uptown, Patrick, so a great idea to do plantings to (almost) match! There are a lot of 'consultant plants' out there telling us which strips are fertile & well-watered with runoff, or more suitable for plants with reduced water needs or a lot of abuse. Alley from Wilson to Leland next to McDonald's is a thriving gorilla for the guerillas to take on. West side of alley that runs parallel to Sheridan between Lakeside Pl & Lawrence next to the (remarkable!) permeable parking lot is another spot ... east side concrete was removed & planted & looks great.

    Uptowners do a great job of greening porches—some stretches are a cascade of flowery green—so alleys are natural next step. Some hidden gems (even some cobblestone). Alley south of Lakeside Place from Sheridan to Clarendon (entrance by Inspiration Kitchens Cafe) has nice perennials on strip by low iron fence & they make a nice bike-riding view onto green playing field behind Uplift. Could be a cool bike route to connect a Leland Greenway to Clarendon/the lakefront.

    Would you be open to rooftop farms like the one-acre site BrightFarms ( will plant in Roscoe Village, Uptown SuperHero!? Urban farming is getting to be bigger business.

  7. tekst-
    Land isn't necessary for composting! Resource:

  8. The main issue with redeveloping the Wilson Station should be creating a sense of security in and around it so people actually feel comfortable using it.

    Green roofs, artwork, French Markets etc are all nice, but if people are afraid to use the station what good does any of it do?

    Right now the area immediately around the station often resembles an Uptown version of "Blade Runner" or "The Road Warrior". I wouldn't be surprised to see Mel Gibson off his medication chasing Harrison Ford by Graeme Stewart School.

    Which Ford used to attend back in the fifties.

    By the way if you want to catch a glimpse of me in a movie with Harrison Ford check out the St. Patrick's Parade scene. I'm the extra in the green hat.

    Afterwards we drank at Kitty O'Shea's pub in the Hilton where I gave Ford some tips on how to pick up the check and lovely young lasses.

  9. Obviously, safety and financial responsibility are of utmost importance. However, we should really try to incorporate eco-minded concepts into the redesign because it will pay off in the end. Solar panels will save a lot of money otherwise spent on grid usage. Greenery will reduce air pollution, lower heat temps, make the area attractive, and enhance quality of life for locals, which all contribute to the businesses who rely on foot traffic. But there is a greater effect that will be imparted by greening the station. Caring for the environment in our living spaces will imbue a sense of respect among individuals in the larger community. It's not just artistic, and economical - it's psychological. If we erase the abandoned feel of that strip of land and replace it with a more lush and cared for environment, it will have a positive impact that is longer lasting and further reaching. The Wilson station needs to be better than Belmont and Fullerton. It needs to add to the neighborhood as a source of reinvigoration, inspiration, and healing for a long neglected part of this city.

  10. Rodin, I agree with you 100%...However, I think back to the $50,000 I believe that was spent on the "Aldi Rose Garden" in taxpayer funding TIF money just a year or two ago...where there are no longer roses, just some bushes..that was completely trashed and $50,000 was completely wasted. In a utopian world, you are spot on , but we are in an Uptownian world, where things tend to be ridden hard and put away wet... and that must be kept in mind when considering green initiatives

  11. Let's just make sure that everyone using all the green-eco-sustainability buzzwords don't treat this like mood rings, hackysacks, Spandex shorts, downtown pedestrian malls, shoulder pads in women's suits, and lava a long-time professional environmentalist, I prefer to see realistic steps that become part of people's everyday lives instead of "jumping on the bandwagon" because "everyone else is doing it". I plant flowers in sidewalk cuts in front of our building for a number of reasons...but I understand that they are going to be trampled and that people are going to leave their dogs' crap in them. My family composted ever since I can remember, but one has to adjust when you have neighborhood infestations of rats and raccoons. When you green up your alley with vines and lush greenness, you may find your plantings doing more duty as a place to stash crack bags and pipes. Don't be discouraged, but be realistic.

    Whatever gets incorporated into the new Wilson Station needs a big dose of realism, and the whole idea of sustainability needs to extend to long-term use and maintenance. Can we realistically expect CTA to maintain green technology after it is installed? Do we need to come up with other mechanisms for the community to ensure that we have a well-tended station and surroundings? Is specific green technology so faddy that replacement parts won't be able to be found in ten years? In the same vein as Uptown Superhero's observation about the Aldi roses, we need to make sure that money isn't wasted, and that what goes in is both utilized and maintained, unlike Aldi's "rosebeds" and the extensive (and never used) bicycle storage facility along Sunnyside in Truman College's parking garage.

  12. What exactly was the "Aldi Rose Garden", who planned it, what was the purpose, the strategy behind it, and why was it abandoned?

    In addition, not that this is the same administration, but what was the purpose behind Schiller's fish farm? It seemed like an odd concept.

  13. Bear60640, I agree that the plans need to be realistic, and I didn't say that they shouldn't, and I don't believe in cheap trends either. But with the amount of money being spent on this project, the designers must be very thoughtful to include environmental ideas that are practical, and lasting. AND I agree that the CTA must be able to maintain them. For example, the greenery doesn't all have to be a fancy "rose garden", but they should also consider creating greenspace that will not be trashed by passersby - such as vertical plantings like sturdy wall vines and trellises. Touches like these actually do matter because it takes into account how things are now - garbage flying around, drunk people using the tree beds as a toilet, etc. The designers should not blindly implement impractical things into the station, but they need to consider the human behavior the station will be working with, and try to use space to encourage positive behavior and respect in some way. That takes some work, and some research to get right.

  14. The Aldi Rose Garden, much like the many unsuccessful attempts to upgrade the landscaping in front of the Grahame school failed because there is no maintenance plan in place. You can't just plant and walk away! Sure, it costs money to maintain, but without it, the initial investment was a waste!

  15. attractive hardscaping would have been a much better idea than a labor intensive rose garden.