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CTA reveals more properties it might need to build Brown Line bypass

One proposed design for Brown Line overpass Belmont.

One proposed design for a Brown Line overpass at Belmont.

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CTA's list of properties targeted for Belmont bypass
MAP: Properties that could be affected by the CTA's Red Line projects
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Updated: May 27, 2014 6:11AM

The Chicago Transit Authority acknowledged Friday that at least 30 parcels, some involving air rights, could be targeted for purchase under a Red and Purple Line modernization plan that includes a new bypass at a major rail bottleneck.

One property left out of the CTA’s previous count of 19 residential buildings is a parking lot critical to the development of an Uptown entertainment district touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The lot runs from 4723 N. Clifton Ave. north to 1123 W. Lawrence Ave. and is across the street from a vacant Borders Ald. James Cappleman (46th) has been trying to match up with a tenant.

“I need that parking lot available so I can get this building rented out,’’ said Cappleman. “I’m not going to have it sit vacant for three years....That particular building is crucial for the entertainment district. We have to get that moving along.’’

CTA officials last week disclosed they had their eyes on 19 “residential” properties, up to 5 stories high, as part of a plan to upgrade four rail stations, from Lawrence to Bryn Mawr; straighten out a kink in existing Red/Purple line tracks; and separate the northbound Brown Line tracks from Red and Purple just north of Belmont.

The $320 million bypass would untangle a logjam that now delays up to 40 percent of trains passing through the area by up to 3 minutes, CTA officials have said.

Friday, in releasing the actual addresses that could be targeted, the CTA threw in 11 more parcels the agency said held mostly parking lots, vacant land, or, in one case, power distribution equipment. Parts of at least four parcels also are needed for some of their “air rights,” though the CTA did not explain exactly how.

Even Cappleman said he has yet to get a clear explanation of CTA plans for 16 percent of the “air rights” of the Borders parking lot. It abuts the Lawrence Station set for an upgrade, as well as Red and Purple Line tracks.

“I don’t know how close in proximity it will be to some buildings,’’ Cappleman said. “I want to see what the facts are.’’

One of Friday’s newly-disclosed “parking lots” — at 3326 N. Clark in Lake View — actually contains a six-unit apartment building and a small parking lot, said its owner, Woody Slaymaker.

Slaymaker wonders if the air rights the CTA could seize could be used to put a CTA “roller coaster” of a bypass over his building and its 12 residents.

“We’re going to have a train going over the top of my building,’’ Slaymaker said. “I’m against it. Who would want to live under a train?

“It’s going to screw up the whole neighborhood. I’m entirely against it.’’

Also in Lake View, Rocky Aiyash was furious Friday that he was allowed to buy a property at 3401 N. Clark that he opened three weeks ago as The Big Cheese Poutinerie, only to be told the CTA now wants the building. He envisioned it as a headquarters for a future U.S. chain and spent $500,000 on the property, franchise fees and other costs, he said.

“We went through all the permit processes, the whole works, the alderman signed off on our permits, all the departments in the city. To have to spend that much and have it taken over is absolutely ludicrous, absolutely ridiculous,’’ Aiyash said.

“You don’t issue building permits to people 90 days before, knowing eminent domain is coming into play.’’

Aiyash’s alderman is Tom Tunney (44th), who predicted litigation, having been through a similar situation when the CTA seized 40 properties for Brown Line work in 2009, when some stations were rebuilt and platforms lengthened.

Litigation could delay work the CTA says would start in 2017 at the earliest.

“There’s obviously going to be property owners reluctant to give up their land or who don’t feel they were fairly compensated,’’ Tunney said. “So I don’t anticipate a smooth ride.’’

With the Belmont bypass expected not only to reduce delays but also to expand capacity, the project is “good for the city, but I want to make sure it’s good for the neighborhood,” Tunney said. “This is disruptive, no question.’’

CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase cautioned that notification of possible acquisition is merely the start of a process” and open houses are planned for next month to gather input.

“Everybody has a voice in this, including the bypass folks,” Chase said. “We know there’s a lot of concerns out there.”

According to the CTA website, the CTA is required to offer no less than fair market value as determined by an independent appraisal and must provide “financial assistance and relocation services.”

However, acquisition won’t be pursued until an environmental review is complete and funding is secured.

A CTA Lawrence-to-Bryn Mawr Modernization open house will be 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 21 at Truman Community College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave.

The Red-Purple Bypass open house is slated for 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 22, at the 19th District Police Station, 850 W. Addison St.

CTA officials also are planning a $2.3 billion extension of the south end of the Red Line, from 95th to 130th. The open house on that project is planned for 5:30-7:30 p.m. May 13, at Palmer Park Gymnasium, 201 E. 111th St.

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