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CTA approves retail space leases for produce stand, cafe

CTA riders in West Englewood will soon be able to grab an apple while heading downtown. And commuters at the Grand Avenue Red Line station can sip “gourmet” coffee by next year.

The CTA board paved the way for the amenities Thursday when it approved five retail-space leases at separate stations and as well as a plan to add 57 ATMs to stations by the end of the year.

Yes, produce will be coming to the CTA for the first time in the transit agency’s history when Lunderman Produce sets up shop on existing space at the Green Line’s Ashland and 63rd station. But there’s hope more commuters in the city can buy fruits and vegetables on CTA property: Ald. James Cappleman (46th) last week told the Sun-Times he’s rooting for a produce stand when the new Wilson station takes shape in 2015.

CTA Chief Planning Officer Rebekah Scheinfeld described Lunderman as a “small, local, independent retailer.”

“This is a smaller retailer and it’s his first foray into this kind of space and we’re excited to be offering fresh produce,” Scheinfeld said. “ …We think it’s worthwhile to experiment with these types of uses of the space.”

The other retailers CTA approved leases for include International News, which will offer newsstands with snacks and drinks at the Cumberland and Jefferson Parks stations on the Blue Line and the Chicago Red Line station.

Interurban Café and Pastry shop will open at the renovated Grand Avenue Red Line station. The café’s owner recently opened Glazed and Infused Doughnuts at the Brown and Purple Line Armitage station.

While the produce stand is under a year lease, the other four businesses have 10 year leases, which will net the CTA $1.4 million.

Also, on Thursday, the CTA Board approved the use of TIF funds for a $10 million cleanup and revamp of the Harrison Red Line station. And $11.5 million in TIF funds will go toward track and viaduct work for the 18th Street Connector project, a stretch along 18th Street from State to Clark which connects the Red and Orange lines to the Loop.

Both are contingent upon City Council approval, but the $25 million 18th Street project could be completed by next year or early 2014.

Handrails and stairs will be replaced at the Harrison station, and the tracks will be waterproofed. Bus and train trackers will also be added to the station. The standalone project would begin in 2014.

The board asked for a review of the project’s timeline, since the new Jones College Prep High School across from the Harrison station is slated to open in fall 2013.

But CTA staff said waterproofing and subway painting will require single track service which will impact customers and can’t overlap with next year’s massive Red Line South Track Renewal project.

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