New Platform, Entrance, Artwork Debut at Wilson Station

The fractal-like "Arpeggio" sculpture by Brititsh artist Cecil Balmond. Photo: John Greenfield
The fractal-like "Arpeggio" sculpture by Brititsh artist Cecil Balmond. Photo: John Greenfield

The Wilson ‘L’ station renovation in Uptown reached another major milestone today as the city opened the northbound platform, transforming the stop into a full Red-Purple transfer station during rush hours. In addition, a new fare card entrance opened on the north side of Wilson Avenue, and a dazzling art installation by U.K. artist and architect Cecil Balmond was unveiled in the main station house on the south side of the street.

Emanuel unveiled the sculpture this morning. Photo: CTA
Emanuel unveiled the sculpture this morning. Photo: CTA

The $203 million reconstruction project, mostly funded by the state of Illinois, launched in 2014 and is slated for completion in January. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA president Dorval Carter touted the latest progress at a ceremony this morning. “Our investment in the Wilson Station is the latest in our work to deliver a 21st Century transit system for all of Chicago,” said Emanuel, in a statement. “By rebuilding this station, we are investing in this historic and vibrant neighborhood, creating new jobs in the community, and ensuring a modern and reliable transit system for Chicago’s residents.”

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The new fare card entrance on the north side of Wilson. Photo: John Greenfield

In addition to the new platform, entrance, and artwork, the latest features of the train stop include a new elevator, escalator, and staircase to access the northbound platform from the main station house. Thanks to the new platform, commuters will be able to seamlessly commute between Evanston and Uptown via the Purple Line during rush hours, whereas this trip previously required taking the Red Line to the Howard station and then transferring to the Purple Line.

The interior of the new fare entrance which, unlike the main entrance, is not wheelchair accessible. Photo: John Greenfield
The interior of the new fare entrance which, unlike the main entrance, is not wheelchair accessible. Photo: John Greenfield

In addition, rush hour trips between Wilson and the Loop via the Purple Line involve fewer stops than similar trips via the Red Line, although CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz says the Red Line trip will still be four-to-five minutes faster. This is due to the fact that the Red, Purple, and Brown Line routes (the latter converges with the Red and Purple corridor at Belmont) diverge south of Armitage, where Purple trains use the same tracks as Brown trains, and Red trains are allowed to run faster on their route to the Loop than Purple and Brown trains are.

With the opening of the new northbound platform, it's now possible during rush hours to ride between Evanston and Uptown without transferring at Howard.
With the opening of the new northbound platform, it’s now possible during rush hours to ride between Evanston and Uptown without transferring at Howard.

The public art, titled Arpeggios, is a multi-faceted sculpture made of mild steel, stainless steel, paint, and vinyl, suspended from the ceiling of the main station house, illuminated with LED lights, and reflected by mirrored panels on the wall. The plaque by the installation states the following:

The folded geometric forms and wood grain finishes are borrowed from 1920s Art Deco design, a style prevalent in the historic architecture of the community. Uptown’s legacy in the development and performance of the art form of jazz is signified in the name of the artwork. The musical term arpeggio describes a type of broken chord, played in succession, either ascending or descending. Such a rhythmic sequence may be interpreted, visually, in the undulating forms, ever-shifting colors, and reflections this artwork provides.

The future exists from the platforms to Sunnyside. Photo: John Greenfield
The future exits from the platforms to Sunnyside. Photo: John Greenfield

Over the next three months, the city will open a third station entrance on Sunnyside Avenue, which will provide wheelchair access to the platforms via a wheelchair-friendly ramp, plus staircases. According to the Uptown Update, a CTA rep said this entrance is supposed to open around Thanksgiving.

The stairs at the Sunnyside entrance, where customers will be able to access both platforms. Photo: John Greenfield
The stairs at the Sunnyside entrance, where customers will be able to access both platforms. Photo: John Greenfield

“The Sunnyside entrance will provide access to both platforms,” says CTA spokeswoman Irene Ferradaz. “Passengers can transfer between north and southbound platforms using the mid-landing area of the ramp [and] stairway.”

After the station project is finished, it will be possible to walk under the tracks by the Sunnyside entrance from the Truman campus to Broadway. Image: Google Maps
After the station project is finished, it will be possible to walk under the tracks by the Sunnyside entrance from the Truman campus to Broadway. Image: Google Maps

Ferradaz also confirmed that after construction is completed, pedestrians will be able to walk under the ‘L’ tracks by the Sunnyside entrance, from Truman College to Broadway, where Uptown’s Target store is located. “There will be a sidewalk under the track structure that will connect to the existing Truman sidewalk located on the north side of their existing parking deck.  This new sidewalk will run under the structure and will extend south to Sunnyside [east of the tracks].

The Gerber Building. Girders have been installed to support the new clocktower. Photo: John Greenfield
The Gerber Building. Girders have been installed to support the new clocktower. Photo: John Greenfield

The city is also in the process of restoring the the 1923 Gerber Building at the northwest corner of Wilson and Broadway, including the reconstruction of an original clocktower which had previously been removed. The CTA is currently looking for a tenant for the space. The upcoming Chicago Market Co-op grocery store has launched an online petition asking for support for their bid to move into the building.

Update: Contrary to what a CTA spokesperson indicated yesterday, it will be possible to cross under the tracks by the Sunnyside entrance between Magnolia and Broadway. It will also be possible to access both the northbound and southbound platforms from this entrance. The post has been updated accordingly.

  • Chicagoan

    I’ve lived in Uptown, just off of Wilson Avenue, since a little before they started construction. The transformation has been incredible. I’m proud to call Wilson my stop and I took a moment to admire Balmond’s work this morning.

  • ardecila

    Re: the Sunnyside entrance… There is a stationhouse at Sunnyside below the tracks (doors face south, toward Montrose for some reason) containing two high-barrier gates capable of entry/exit. There is a ramp leading up to the platforms. Halfway up, the ramp splits, with one going to the northbound and one to the southbound platform. You could, in theory, use this as a transfer bridge between platforms.

    The same stationhouse will be accessible from both the east via Sunnyside, and the west via a pedestrian walkway that wraps around and leads into Truman’s campus. By all appearances, people will be able to use the same walkway to cross through CTA property from east to west.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks, looking into this.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Contrary to what I was told yesterday, you are correct about pedestrians being able to cross under the tracks by the Sunnyside entrance. In addition, the CTA confirmed that customers will be able to access both platforms from Sunnyside. I’ve updated the post.

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