Over the last ten years or so, the Chicago Transit Authority has embarked on a number of significant infrastructure improvements, from new trains, to new stations, to the Pink Line. While it can be argued that the only reason this is happening is because the feds have been hauling dumptrucks full of money into Chicago that can only legally be spent on building things, not operations or personnel; it can’t be disputed that all that work is having a significant impact on Chicago’s urbanization patterns and the public.
Next up on the CTA’s list: We’re back to the South Side Green Line, with a complete overhaul of the — yes, I’ll call it scary — Garfield Station.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the transit agency’s brass made a big announcement about the station renovation Sunday, dubbing it the “Garfield Gateway Project.” For all the hoopla, we’ve known about this for eight months. Senator Dick Durbin announced it back in July when he allocated 25 million of your tax dollars for it. That’s about half of the money the city now says it’ll need to complete the project. But don’t get too attached to any of the images you see floating around. The design isn’t done.
Still, it’s a timely project. The original Garfield station went into service 125 years ago, and according to Chicago-L, was last renovated in 2001. But with just 11 days left in President Obama’s term, sooner or later the dirt is going to start turning on his nearby presidential library. And that means gaggles of tourists are going to start finding their ways to this station as they seek out whatever it is that draws people to presidential libraries. A “gateway” to the neighborhood is a good place for the city to start the wayfinding effort.
Ordinarily, we’d include the press release from the Mayor’s Office below, but lately it takes many days for hizzonor’s web site to be updated. So here’s Senator Durbin’s press release from back in July announcing this project.
Durbin, Emanuel, Members Of Illinois Delegation Announce $25 Million TIGER Grant For Garfield Green Line Gateway
Improvement Project Will Upgrade Operational Garfield Green Line Station And Restore Historic “Alley L” Station
PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL-7) and Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced $25 million in federal funding to create an updated, convenient transit gateway at the Garfield Green Line ‘L’ station in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood. This investment, awarded through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant program, will support improvements to the existing operational Green Line station and restore the historic 1892 former ‘Alley L’ station and track structure.
“This announcement is good news for Washington Park. Today’s funding preserves the rich history of the Washington Park neighborhood and takes important steps to improve safety for area residents, many of whom rely on public transit to get to and from work,” said Senator Durbin. “I was proud to support this revitalization project, and I will continue to advocate for strong investments in Illinois’ transportation systems.”
“This Federal Department of Transportation grant will help renew, and re-energize the community surrounding the Garfield Green Line station with new job opportunities, new public spaces, improved accessibility to public transit and an exciting new partnership between CTA and Arts Block – the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life Initiative led by artist Theaster Gates,” said Representative Davis. “Community activists have been advocating for this type of development for years and they deserve to share in the credit for this significant investment.”
“I am very happy to learn of the $25 million TIGER grant award going to the CTA’s Garfield Green Line Station project. The Green Line is a critical link between my constituents in South Side neighborhoods and downtown Chicago, connecting people to employment centers and educational institutions and providing access to essential services,” said Representative Rush. “In addition, the upgrades and beautification plans for the station support the larger community’s revitalization efforts that spur economic growth; and improve quality of life for those residing nearby.”
“All across Chicago, we are investing in our city’s infrastructure – from roads to runways to rail so that every Chicagoan is connected to a better future. With this federal grant for CTA’s Garfield Station, we are able to build a new transit gateway to propel our vision for the vibrant Washington Park neighborhood,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This also represents the latest in our ongoing investments to bring economic and cultural opportunities to Chicago’s South Side. I want to thank our federal partners for this funding, and for supporting Chicago’s continued investments in our world-class transit system.”
The new station will complement current revitalization efforts by community groups, property owners and the University of Chicago along Garfield Boulevard. The Garfield Gateway station is a key component of the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life Initiative’s Arts Block project, led by renowned Chicago artist Theaster Gates. A $1.8 million Arts Incubator was constructed in 2013 adjacent to the historic station house in an abandoned, historic two-story terra-cotta building.
The existing Garfield ‘L’ station was built in 2001 and serves nearly 475,000 riders each year and provides connections with the #55 Garfield bus, a route with more than 3 million riders annually that provides direct connections to the University of Chicago and Midway International Airport. The project will improve the environment for commuters by extending platform canopies; upgrading platform accessibility, including elevator and escalator improvements; and installing public art and landscaping to transform the customer experience.
In coordination with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Garfield Gateway project will also include architectural enhancements to make the streetscape next to the station a stronger community focal point—including improved pedestrian street crossings, eco-friendly paving materials, median landscaping including sustainable native grasses and plants, bike lanes, benches and bike racks at the station.
The $50 million project will also make improvements to the original Garfield station house on the south side of Garfield Boulevard. The station was built as part of the South Side Rapid Transit’s extension to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1892—the historic Alley ‘L’—making it the oldest ‘L’ station facility and one of the oldest intact public transit stations in the country.
The station house, which earned City of Chicago landmark status in 2001, will be restored to its original turn-of-the century look, and will receive improvements to allow it to serve a public purpose, such as a community space.
The Garfield Gateway station is just the latest large-scale investment in the CTA and the communities it serves under Mayor Emanuel. Since 2011, several major station projects have been completed or are under way, including completely rebuilt stations at 95th and Wilson on the Red Line, and new stations at Morgan (Green and Pink Lines) and Cermak-McCormick Place (Green Line). As the new Morgan station demonstrates, the renovation of the Garfield station also represents how these types of investments help spur economic activity in surrounding neighborhoods.
The CTA is still finalizing designs for the Garfield rehabilitation. Work is expected to begin in 2018 and be completed by the end of 2019.