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At last! The city has inked a contract for Damen Line Green stop construction with Paschen

Rendering of the interior of the station.

This post includes earlier reporting by Streetsblog Chicago freelancer David Zegeye.

The new Damen Avenue infill station on the Green Line will be a wonderful resource for the Near West Side – if it ever gets built.

In 2017, former mayor Rahm Emanuel and 27th ward alderman Walter Burnett Jr. announced plans for the new stop. In addition to building the station, the Chicago Department of Transportation is reconstructing a half-mile stretch of Lake Street from Ashland to Damen, a $12.9 million project. The total expenditure, which slated to be $72.9 million, is funded by the Kinzie Industrial Corridor tax increment financing (TIF) district, plus state funding.

The station is being designed by Perkins+Will, with art by Folayemi (Fo) Wilson, and was slated to open in 2020. But four years and two groundbreakings after the 2017 announcement, last March there were still are no signs of construction. According to the city’s Department of Procurement Services, which is managing contracts for the project, the station had only opened bidding in late February.

The station site, as it appeared last March. Photo: David Zegeye
The station site, between the elevated tracks and the cellphone towers, as it appeared last March. Photo: David Zegeye
The station site, as it appeared last March. Photo: David Zegeye

In March of this year, when Streetsblog asked CDOT about the years-long delay, spokesperson Mike Claffey assured us, "The bid phase for the construction of the station is almost complete with bids being opened March 10 (today!) If the bidding process stays on track, we anticipate issuing the Notice to Proceed in the next 60 to 90 days, which would allow us to break ground on the stationhouse project this summer. It will take 24 months to complete the project.”

This summer came and went, and there was still no visible progress on the project, so clearly the bidding process did not stay on track.

The good news is that eagle-eyed Streetsblog reader Jesse Dean saw a notice on the city's procurement page that the station construction contract was finally awarded this Wednesday, September 28. The Chicago-based firm FH Paschen won the contract with a bid of $67,316,000. That indicates that the total project cost has grown from the original budget of $72.9 million to $80,216,000, or $7,316,000 more than planned. It's not clear where the additional funding is coming from.

Reached this afternoon, Claffey offered few additional details, promising that the city will make a formal announcement about the state of the project, including the finalized construction schedule. But judging from his statement last March, the station probably won't be completed until at least late 2023. But, hey, better late than never.

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

The original Damen station opened in 1893 as part of the Lake Street Elevated Railroad, which would eventually become the Lake Street branch of the Green Line. The dense Near West Side provided a steady ridership base along the line, as evident by the fact that for many years stations were spaced only a few blocks from each other.

The new 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 facility will be largely transparent, with a large staircase and escalator visible from the glass façade. The skybridge, whose design is a reference to Chicago’s many steel bridges, will provide access between the inbound and outbound train platforms.

The station will improve transit access to businesses and industries along the Kinzie Industrial Corridor and nearby residences, including the Chicago Housing Authority’s Westhaven Park complex. Another phase of Westhaven – that will have 96 mixed-income apartments – was approved this year to be built across Damen. 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.

Read more about the Damen Green Line station project here.

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