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City hopes Green Line station brings life to McCormick Place area

Rendering new Cermak Green Line station.

Rendering of the new Cermak Green Line station.

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Updated: October 1, 2013 6:27AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to enliven the area around McCormick Place got a shot in the arm Thursday when ground was broken for a $50 million CTA Green Line station that will serve the convention center and its new hotels, the Motor Row entertainment district and a new DePaul basketball arena.

The new station, scheduled to open to riders in late 2014 near the intersection of Cermak and State, will be the first to serve McCormick Place in nearly 40 years, when a station at that same location was demolished.

“Ald. Pat Dowell and I . . . were talking about what we needed to do to really move the South Loop, the Motor Row area and the McCormick Place area. We need to make greater investments in our transportation,” Emanuel said.

“The decades of debate about building a new train station here at Cermak to serve this community and McCormick Place is now over. The building begins.”

The new station will plug a two-mile gap in CTA service that now forces Near South Side Green Line riders to choose between existing stations at Roosevelt and 35th.

It will also serve the new Motor Row entertainment district Emanuel is trying to create around McCormick Place anchored by new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and a 10,000-seat DePaul basketball arena.

The Green Line station will have direct transfer connections to westbound buses and three elevator-accessible entrance points — on both sides of Cermak and on 23rd Street.

CTA riders will be watched like a hawk — by 58 security cameras. The station will also have LED lighting, a Divvy bike-sharing station and parking for 80 bikes.

Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said the new station will have a “sleek modern design” and a “tubular canopy” built by necessity.

“It’s an extremely tight footprint. . . . The city owns the land immediately around the tracks, but there’s no room to build out beyond it. So, we’ll be utilizing a center platform. The CTA and the mayor wanted a full canopy over the platform for protection from the elements,” Klein explained before the ceremonial first shovel of dirt.

“There’ll be streetscaping on 23rd Street. It’ll really create a multi-modal hub here at the station and a great entranceway to McCormick Place.”

Dowell, the local 3rd Ward alderman, predicted that the new station would “open up” the South Loop.

“The 23rd Street exit will be great for Motor Row. People can exit and just walk to the new restaurants, the new brewery and other activities that are gonna be on Michigan Avenue,” Dowell said.

“This is a station that is gonna see a lot of activity. I think it’s gonna generate other economic development. We have vacant property…on two of the four corners at 22nd and State. This will encourage more development. It will serve the event center. We’re really excited about that. But it will also serve the residents of the South Loop, my residents at Hilliard.”

Two years ago, Klein cited the Cermak station as one of two downtown transportation projects that would be funded by a $2 parking tax, cleverly billed as a “congestion fee” even though it was confined neither to rush periods nor congested downtown and River North.

On Thursday, mayoral aides refused to say how much, if any, of the $50 million in construction costs would come from the parking tax. They would only say the project would be primarily funded by tax-increment-financing.

The $55 million subsidy for the DePaul basketball arena alone has become a let-them-eat-cake rallying cry for teachers, parents, aldermen and community leaders upset about school closings and budget cuts. They have questioned Emanuel’s priorities.

Dowell hedged, when asked Thursday whether she is now “on board” with the arena.

“I’m working with my community to see if we can fit the event center in and in a way that is beneficial — not just to McCormick Place, but also to the South Loop Prairie District neighborhood. That’s about all I’ll say about that right now,” she said.


Twitter: @fspielman

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