Last night residents of the 47th Ward gathered at Bethany Retirement Community to review plans for the new Metra station to be located north of Lawrence Avenue on Ravenswood. Work on the federally funded $80-million project will begin this fall and is expected to wrap up by the end of 2014.
It’s part of a $173-million construction project, beginning this August, to replace 100+-year-old bridges along the Union Pacific North line from Fullerton to Balmoral. Ravenswood is currently the busiest stop on the UP-N line, and when complete, the new station will include two ADA-compliant access points?one on the south end at Lawrence and a new pedestrian tunnel on the north end near Ainslie.
Residents at the open house studied renderings by FitzGerald Associates, filled out comment sheets, and asked questions of Metra representatives, project architects, and Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th). Some neighbors expressed concern about the new station being located north of Lawrence. According to Metra spokesperson Michael Gillis, the current location south of Lawrence doesn’t afford enough room for station growth.
Local resident Adam Epstein thinks the current location is a better fit. “They’re putting the station right in a residential area. On the south side [of Lawrence] it’s more industrial,” he said. Four years ago, Epstein and his wife bought property on the 4800 block of North Ravenswood Avenue and moved into their home last Saturday. He said he’s worried about losing the tree line and having a brick fortress in his front yard. “Had we known [the new station] was going to be a large brick structure when we moved in, things might be different,” he said. “We needed to be involved in this conversation much sooner.”
Other residents discussed issues of traffic flow and parking. The proposed Ravenswood Station commercial development, if given the green light from the city of Chicago, will include a four-level parking garage on the west side of the tracks, accessible to Metra commuters. “It’s a transit-oriented development,” Schulter said. But in terms of when the garage will go in, he added, “That’s all based on financing for the shopping center.”
Other concerns from residents include the Metra’s abundant loudspeaker announcements and the fate of nearby trees and community gardens. Addressing the latter concern, Gillis said they’re trying to minimize any removal of trees and gardens.
For some attendees last night, though, the greater issue was how the plans were unveiled?in an open house format, rather than a more formal community meeting.
“We’re wondering why there’s no prudent discussion,” Barbara Cooper told Center Square Journal.
“There’s no way to ask questions so that everyone can hear them,” said Ginny Sykes, a local artist whose husband owns Spacca Napoli. Sykes said that while she knows repairs need to be made, “It’s hard to adapt to change… It can be scary. You want to be as prepared as you can for it.”
Stay tuned to Center Square Journal for construction updates. According to Metra, Ravenswood scheduled stops will be adjusted slightly for the duration of the build. A revised schedule will be announced at a July 16 Metra board meeting and posted on metrarail.com.