Damen Green Stop Will Have a Skybridge With Awesome Views

Rendering of the east view of the station.
Rendering of the east view of the station.

The upcoming $60 million Damen Green Line stop already promised to be a transformative project for the Near West Side, but the recently unveiled design indicates that it will be yet another transit station showpiece for the city. Like the Green Line’s tube-shaped Cermak-McCormick Place stop (2015) and the Loop’s Washington-Wabash station (2017), which is reminiscent of whale’s skeleton, the Damen stop will feature dramatic architecture, including a glass skybridge that will offer breathtaking skyline views. More significantly, the new station will bridge the 1.5-mile distance between the Green Line’s Ashland and California stations, which will surely spur development in the area. The station is being funded through the Kinzie Industrial TIF.

Rendering of the interior of the station.
Rendering of the interior of the station.

The design plan is by Perkins + Will, an architecture and design firm that has completed station projects from British Columbia to Chongqing City, China. The facility will be largely transparent, with a large staircase and escalator visible from the glass façade. The skyway, whose design is a reference to Chicago’s many steel bridges, will provide access between the inbound and outbound train platforms.

Render_Platform Northeast
Rendering of the platform.

The station will improve transit access to businesses and industries along the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and nearby residences, including the Chicago Housing Authority’s Villages of Westhaven complex. It will also offer a new way to get to the United Center – the stop will be a roughly seven-minute walk from the north entrance.

The Damen station follows the 2012 debut of the Morgan Green and Pink infill stop. Transit analyst Yonah Freemark noted on Twitter that in the years following that facility’s opening (which coincided with a massive development boom in the West Loop), total transit ridership among the Morgan station and the neighboring Ashland and Clinton stops rose by 35 percent, compared to only a 2 percent ridership increase systemwide. It’s likely that the Damen stop will see a similar jump in ridership in the years after it opens.

In April, the Chicago Department of Transportation began work on the reconstruction of Lake Street between Ashland and Damen that will prepare the Lake/Damen intersection for the new station. The project will improve access for trucks in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor by increasing the vertical clearance under the tracks, and it will also relocate structural columns that support the elevated tracks to accommodate the new station.

Image-13
Lake and Damen, the future station location. Photo: CDOT

Design work will continue on the new station while CDOT carries out the reconstruction project on Lake Street. Work on the foundation for the new stop is slated to start late this year, with work on the station house starting in spring 2019. The station is expected to open in 2020.

  • david vartanoff

    Nice to see CTA restoring another station eliminated in an ill-designed economy move decades ago.

  • Chicagoan

    Looks great, love that the CTA hires high-quality architects to design the stations.

  • BlueFairlane

    Counterpoint: Imagine how many stations CTA could build if it didn’t insist on making each one “another transit station showpiece for the city” that costs $60 million. We need fewer whale bones and more functionality.

  • Obesa Adipose

    What would it cost to not make it a showpiece? $59 million? $58 million? Most of the costs on projects like this are fixed on the infrastructure. Stop cheeping out commuters.

  • Chicagoan

    What follows this station will be very interesting. There’s not a lot of development opportunity to the north, since it’s factories and railroad tracks, but to the south is different.

    There’s a number of lots that are ripe for development until you hit the United Center. The UC’s moat of surface parking creates an eyesore and can sort of block West Loop development from moving westward into East Garfield Park. Of course EGF is different than the West Loop in the fact that it’s more classic in design (Less converted loft spaces, more Greystones), but there’s no reason that development shouldn’t make it all the way to those freight railroad tracks just west of Western by 2030. It’ll be a while before any kind or real development makes it out to Homan and the eastern edge of Garfield Park, but if the neighborhood can address some issues, it’s an attractive place to live (Close to the Loop, West Loop, et cetera).

    Right now I’d say that West Loop development fever has reached Ogden, since Glassdoor is out there on Fulton and there’s some trendy bars and restaurants near Union Park. The city should lean on the Blackhawks and Bulls to build a garage next to the United Center and give up some of the lots for development. I don’t think we’ll see offices out there, but it’ll be telling if we see one of the veteran developers buy a lot west of the Pink Line tracks with a plan to build apartments.

  • BlueFairlane

    The Morgan station cost $38 million. So I’d say at a glance that the showpiece aspect adds $22 million, or a third of the cost.

    The Morgan station looks pretty nice. It lets people get on and off the train. I don’t think that’s “cheeping out.”

  • Cameron Puetz

    The Brown Line Capacity Expansion Project which involved rebuilding (most from the ground up) 18 stations in addition to substantial track work was only $530 million. If you go nuts and say the track work was free, that averages out to $29.4 million per station. There’s definitely a point to made for closing two gaps with stations like the new Brown Line stations instead of one gap with a showpiece.

  • Jake F

    There’s a middle ground between cheaping out on basic accessibility and making a grand design statement through $20 million of extra glass. It would be much better to have 3 new stations like Morgan than 2 like Damen/Lake, which is the tradeoff we’re talking about based on BlueFairlane’s math.

  • Austin Busch

    The funding is coming from the Kinzie Industrial TIF. That money almost assuredly can’t be used to build other stations. Imagine how many stations the CTA could build if more corridors had transportation TIFs.

    I’m all for building more infill stations in other places on the line, but right now they’re spending the money they have where they’re allowed to use it, and it looks like a solid investment.

  • BlueFairlane

    So the cost of the project expands to fill the size of the money you have sitting around for dumb reasons. Makes sense.

    I mean, the specific limitations on fund allocation are certainly true, because the local government’s dumb that way, but don’t act like an excessive amount of money spent on an unnecessarily fancy, invisible station here isn’t going to result in less money available to spend elsewhere. Why? Because this exact kind of thing is what leads to voters electing anti-tax politicians who do everything they can to starve transit. “CTA doesn’t need our money,” says State Representative Buford Hensely (R-Olney). “They just spent $60 million on a bunch of glass!” And downstate and suburban voters will nod and pull the R lever.

  • Andrew Ryan

    I agree that it will be very interesting to see how development unfolds. There is a 4-acre parking lot bounded by Warren, Damen, Madison, and Hoyne that is not owned by the United Center, which could and should support a massive mixed-use TOD. The lots are owned by a handful of individuals and the City, but with some coordination, they could be developed and truly transform the neighborhood. If that happens, it would be a development catalyst for the vast expanse of vacant lots west of Western.

  • Carter O’Brien

    At least there’s a new station, though. In my neck of the woods at Belmont & Kimball we’re getting the world’s fanciest bus shelter, for a staggering $17 million. Ridiculous!

    “One of the busiest bus-to-train locations, the new station will include a glass and steel gateway canopy at the entrance. The $17 million in upgrades also will include LED lighting, a resurfaced subway platform, and new signs to speed up bus boarding.”

    https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2018/05/22/cta-blue-line-renovations-belmont-jefferson-park/

  • yeah, most expensive new roof job in the city

  • I think they’re using a lot of glass to say that you can ‘read’ the building and tell where you’re supposed to go, but looking at the renderings I still can’t figure it out. Do you have to use the bridge to get downtown? The big empty plaza and giant atrium seem like missed opportunities and are really just areas you have to pass through to get to the track which only has glass waist high. Whoever designed this maybe hasn’t waited outside for a train in January. I’m all for investing in high quality stations, I just don’t really get what’s going on here.

  • rwy

    So to get from the street to the platform, do you have to go up, and then down like at the south entrance to Howard?

  • Chicagoan

    There’s definitely a lot of opportunity to build large-scale, mixed-use projects out there. The lot you speak of could play host to multiple housing types, a public park, and retail spaces. All in very close proximity to the new Damen station (As well as the IMD station). I’d like to see the Blackhawks & Bulls build a garage on the Warren/Wood/Madison/Damen lot and see all of the remaining lots sold to developers.

  • Chicagoan

    I suppose I agree, this station kind of looks to be designed for Miami as opposed to Chicago.

  • Andrew Ryan

    I think the atrium and plaza make sense for a station that will be accommodating thousands of riders all going to and from the UC at about the same time. And unlike other green line stations such Kedzie, this skyway bridge is enclosed. I assume that was done specifically to encourage ridership in the winter.

  • Andrew Ryan

    It’s also interesting that the renderings depict a mixed-use looking building on the southeast corner of Damen and Lake. That lot is owned by CHA or the City I believe, and it’s currently just vacant land. I hope this means the City already has plans to develop it with something containing street level retail.

  • juliosnoop1717

    Even Morgan has a glass pedestrian bridge that has absolutely zero practical necessity, seeing as both platforms have their own entrances and elevators.

  • rohmen

    There’s already been some decent development between Damen and Western on both Washington and Warren (and they seem to be renting/selling now), so I do think there is a decent chance of seeing development spread pretty quickly once this station is complete. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the north UC lot on Madison get developed into something like what the Rickets built as well in the near future.

    There’s some gang loitering problems at night in area parks that the City needs to figure out a solution to, but this area had already been changing pretty rapidly, and the station will likely speed it up.

  • rohmen

    I agree. As someone who rides the Forest Park branch of the Blue Line, I think it provides a good example of the issues you can run into if you just do cheaper/utilitarian stations, with no consideration of “good design.” The Blue Line stations on that stretch were done on the cheap, and it shows over time on how they’ve held up. They look pretty horrible now, and I think it impacts ridership by giving off an “unsafe”/sketchy vibe (more than the reality is for sure).

    But, there’s a middle ground of having stations look nice and function well, yet not being white elephants.

  • JacobEPeters

    Plazas still need more than 3 trees and a lot of pavement, look at the Logan Square Blue Line station. The CTA should add a water feature & a retail tenant on the plaza who manages moveable seating to furnish the plaza. This is a worthwhile hour long video about what it takes to have an active public plaza. https://youtu.be/z_-nBr2MuBk The plaza as currently rendered has almost none of the necessary ingredients.

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