Mayor, CTA break ground on Garfield Green Line station improvement project

Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) breaks ground at Washington Park’s Garfield Green Line station for the Garfield Gateway project. Emanuel was joined by Kamau Murray, president and CEO of XS Tennis; Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd); Marty Nesbitt, board chair of Obama Foundation; CTA President Dorval Carter; and several site construction workers. – Photo Courtesy of the Chicago Transit Authority

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., broke ground on the $50 million Garfield Gateway project in Washington Park today, which will provide for a number of improvements to the Green Line ‘L’ station and the historic station house on the other side of the boulevard. There will also be transit improvements related to the incoming Obama Presidential Center.

A $25 million grant from the federal Department of Transportation alongside local and CTA funds will fund the project. Its announcement comes after the state government’s budget included $174 million to finance transit improvements related to the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.

“The Obama Presidential Center will be a transformational project for Chicago’s South Side, and this state funding demonstrates Illinois’ commitment to honoring the legacy of Chicago’s favorite son and daughter,” Emanuel said. “Today we are doubling down on that investment and turning an iconic station from an eyesore into a community asset that reflects Washington Park’s future.”

Specific Garfield station upgrades include platform canopy extensions, elevator and escalator improvements and investments in public art and landscaping. Work is expected to be completed by year’s end.

“CTA always seeks to create and enhance a sense of community when we build or renovate our rail stations,” said Carter. “These facilities are far more than just places to catch a train or bus; they are travel hubs that frequently become part of the fabric of the communities we serve.”

Though not a part of the ‘L’ station today, the 1892-built Garfield station house is one of the oldest extant pieces of transit infrastructure in Chicagoland. The University of Chicago, which announced last year that the CTA had leased them the property, has planned a $219,000 renovation to use it as a welcome center for its Arts Block anchored by Theaster Gates projects such as the Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd., and the Currency Exchange Cafe, 305 E. Garfield Blvd.

Emanuel and the CTA announced that the Garfield Gateway project would restore the station house to its original appearance with LED lighting and new paint. A CTA spokesman said the Garfield Gateway project restoration of the station house would connect it to utilities and demolish its interior, leaving the U. of C. to develop it with their own funds.

The Garfield Gateway project will also include streetscape improvements like improved pedestrian crossings, bike infrastructure like lanes and racks and native landscaping of the boulevard median, done in coordination with the Chicago Department of Transportation.

The Garfield ‘L’ station serves nearly 425,000 riders annually and is connected to Hyde Park by the all-hours #55 bus service, which also serves the Garfield Red Line station and the Orange Line terminus at Midway International Airport.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com