Eyes on the Street: Checking in on the 95th Street Station Rehab
The 95th Street Red Line terminal is one of Chicago’s busiest stations, with 24-7 Red Line service and an average of more than 20,000 bus and rail trips taken daily. The current $280 million rehab of the station includes replacing the original Nixon-era train stop with new north and south terminals, connected by a sky bridge over six-lane 95th Street.
The south terminal opened to bus and rail service on April 15, and the old terminal was recently demolished. The north terminal is slated for completion by the end of the year.
Last week Beverly resident Anne Alt discussed some problems with the current, temporary bus stop locations at the station. This week Streetsblog reporter James Porter stopped by to document the current conditions at the facility, and talk to other commuters to get their takes on how the renovation project is going.
James also asked them about local artist Theaster Gates plans for $1.3 million worth of public art at the station. These include a work in the north terminal titled “an extended song of our people (AESOP),” involving a sound studio with live performances and presentations by DJs, musicians, poets, and other community members, with the programming played through the station’s P.A. system. The second portion of Gates’ project, titled “america, america,” will consist of two large tapestries in the south terminal, made from decommissioned fire hoses, an apparent nod to the African-American Civil Rights movement.
Transit rider Timothy Brown said he’s looking forward to the completed station. “I’ve seen the overall blueprint,” he said. “Once it’s going to be finished, it looks like it’s going to be nice.” But right now, like Anne Alt, he’s not thrilled with the bus stop layout. “I catch [Pace Route] 359 home, so I have to actually walk around over by Abbot Park on 95th [to catch the bus.] I think it’s a lot of things they could have done better — when I come in to 95th, instead of just letting us off in front of the terminal, they let us off across the street. But I guess you gotta take the ups and downs.”
Brown said he’s on the fence about whether the DJ booth is a good idea, but he likes the idea of station art that refers to African-American history. “Enlightening our youth about historical black events and Black people… you can see what the world is like nowadays, so they definitely need that,” he said. “Just to have art up here that shows where we came from…hopefully, it will make some of these kids really see where we’re at now. We’re actually worse now than in the Civil Rights era.”
Another commuter named Rick Ross (no relation to the eponymous hip-hop mogul) said he’s a fan of the new design so far. “It seems safer,” he said. “It’s more functional than before.” He added that the more open, light-filled south terminal has a more cheerful vibe than the old facility, and he thinks the DJ booth will make the north terminal a more interesting space.
Straphanger Adrian Fox says she has grown to like the new station, although it took some getting used to. “One day I came over here after not coming for a long time,” she said. “I saw it was different, and I’m like, what is this?” she said. “I guess the old terminal is just associated with old memories, like being in high school. Other than that, I like it. It’s updated.” She added that the brand-new facility feels like something you might see downtown or on the North Side.
As for the public art plans? “That’d be cool!” she said, adding that she’s glad a Black artist is spearheading the project. “The DJ is kinda too much,” she added, “But it would be cool to have. People will definitely pay attention to music.”