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CTA unveils new plan for Red Line's Wilson station

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The Chicago Transit Authority unveiled designs for the Wilson Red Line station, which it says will serve as an anchor for economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.

The Wilson reconstruction project, part of the transit agency's Red Ahead program, is estimated to cost $203 million and is slated to start in 2013 and last until early 2015, according to a statement by CTA.

“This is a great starting point for the future design of an important station that helps thousands of Chicagoans get to work and school each day,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

The station itself, built in 1923, will be rebuilt with elevators, new platforms, and the CTA will make Wilson a transfer station for the Purple Line. The renderings show features similar to that of the Fullerton and Belmont stations after major renovations, with modern glass and steel canopies and a glass entrance along Wilson.

“Making Wilson a transfer station will provide much greater flexibility and convenience for both Red and Purple Line riders, and will help CTA operate more efficiently,” CTA president Forrest Claypool said in a statement.

The development includes the renovation of the historic Gerber Building on the corner of Wilson and Broadway, with planned restorations of its terra cotta exterior.

Uptown neighborhood resident Johnny Hopkins thinks it’s about time. He said that one of the major problems is the lack of elevators for seniors and people with disabilities.

“This station right here to me sucks,” Hopkins said. “It looks like the stairs need upgrading, it looks old.”

CTA spokesman Brian Steele says the project is considered one of the largest station reconstruction projects, and it seeks to spark economic development nearby. One of the entrances will connect riders to large stores like Target and Aldi.

“One of the highlights of the station is an auxiliary entrance that will be on Sunnyside Avenue that will connect directly to some of the recent commercial development that occurred just south of the station,” Steele said.

But Mike Atih, who owns a cell phone store nearby, worries that the Target and Aldi entrance will funnel customers away from him.

“I don’t like it,” Atih said. “This is going to have some effect on our business. A lot of our customers take the train back and forth to us.”

Other residents are happy about the idea, but hope the station will continue to operate during the reconstruction.

“It’s good … as long as it doesn’t take too much time because a lot of people use it,” said Brenda Vasquez.

The CTA said the Wilson station will remain open, but said to expect service changes around construction projects.

Other improvements involve moving the elevated tracks to the west to open up space on Broadway and Wilson Avenues. This improvement will remove some of the columns that sit between the roadway and the sidewalk to clear out space for pedestrians, explained Steele, the CTA spokesman.

About $170 million of the project funding comes from the Illinois Jobs Now program, with additional funds from the Federal Transit Administration and tax-increment financing, according to the CTA.

The CTA will seek community input by hosting an open house meeting on Oct. 11 at 6-8 p.m. at Truman College.


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