An artist's conception of the Cermak-McCormick Place station shows what the station is envisioned to look like from an aerial vantage point looking southwest. The main entrance station house on the north side of Cermak Road is visible under the "L" structure, on the right. The center portion of the platform will be fully enclosed on all sides by a distinctive tube-shaped canopy. The outer portions of the platform, including stairs between the platform and street level, will be covered with smaller cantilevered canopies. For a larger view, click here. (Rendering courtesy of CDOT)
Cermak Road and Wabash Avenue, Near South Side
Green Line: South Side Elevated
Address: 13-15 E. Cermak Road
Established: June 6, 1892
Original Line: South Side Rapid Transit
Previous Names: 22nd Street, Cermak Road
Rebuilt: 1907, 2013-14
Status: Under Construction
The interior of the 22nd Street mezzanine station house is seen looking inside through the exterior windows in 1907. Note the horizontally-rotating-type turnstile. The decorative ticket agent's booth survived until the station was demolished. For a larger view, click here [off-site link]. (DN-0004915, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum, courtesy of the Library of Congress)
22nd Street was one of the original ten stations of Chicago's first "L" line, the South Side Rapid Transit. The original station building was a grade-level structure built in 1892 with a brick exterior and a large bay in the center of the front elevation. The station had two side platforms with short "humpbacked" canopies.
In 1907, as part of an ordinance to allow the South Side Elevated to install a third track for express service, all stations north of 43rd Street, including this one, were required to replace their grade-level facilities with mezzanine-level stations, clearing the alley beneath the tracks. Between 18th and 39th Streets, the third track was added on the east side of the existing elevated structure, with the new track becoming the new northbound track and the old northbound track becoming a bidirectional express track. This resulted in the relocation of 22nd's northbound platform. The replacement of the street-level station house with a mezzanine facility required the the elevated structure to the raised at the station (with grades of up to 1.44% at some stations to compensate for the change in elevation) as the city ordinance permitting the work required that there had to be sufficient clearance under the mezzanine for vehicles to pass.
The mezzanine station facility was a fairly simple structure, constructed of sheet metal with simple ornamentation. Stairs, originally descending north toward the street, were relocated behind the station after the street was widened. When the new mezzanine station house was built in 1907, it was on the south side of 22nd Street. Later, 22nd Street was widened, with the new width coming from the land along the south side of the street, and the mezzanine ended up being suspended over the new eastbound road lanes. When 22nd Street was renamed Cermak Road in honor of Chicago's assassinated mayor, Anton Cermak, the station's name changed to follow suit.
The layout and configuration of the Cermak station can be seen in this view looking southwest in May 1959. Stairs on the south side of Cermak led to the mezzanine station house, which customers passed through, exiting on the north side to stairs up to the platforms, which each had a short, flat-roof canopy. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, Graham Garfield Collection)
Over its life, the Cermak station's usage has fluctuated as its importance changed. Normally, it was an average station serving a residential neighborhood and modest commercial strip. But in 1933, to improve its share of traffic destined for the Century of Progress Worlds Fair being held in Burnham Park, the Chicago Rapid Transit Company got temporary permits to run shuttle buses from Cermak and State/Van Buren to the Exposition, making Cermak a highly-patronized transfer point.
In the CTA's 1949 North-South Route service revision, Cermak became a "B" station under the A/B skip-stop system due to its relatively low number of users compared to the other stations CTA kept open after the service revision.
In 1960, the CTA embarked on a project to provide an off-street bus-rapid transit passenger interchange at the station to expedite the heavy flow of traffic to the new McCormick Place convention center. An L-shaped parcel on the north side of Cermak Road, adjacent to the east side of the "L" with a driveway extending under the structure to State Street, was identified for the terminal. The purpose of the terminal was primarily for shuttle bus service between the "L" station and McCormick Place. It is unclear, however, if the terminal was ever completed and brought into use, as only a couple years later signs in the station mezzanine instructed passengers, "to McCormick Place / board buses on Cermak at Wabash".
During the postwar era, the station's patronage remained relatively steady but began to drop in the late 1960s and continued to do so into the 1970s. The changes in ridership were caused in large by changing population densities and demographics in the surrounding area, and was no doubt exacerbated by the Cermak-Chinatown station opened three blocks away on the Dan Ryan Line in 1969.
With patronage dropping and a need to prioritize resources, the CTA identified Cermak as a station for cost economizing and possible closure. CTA began withdrawing service from the station in the mid-1970s. On September 12, 1976, service at Cermak station reduced to 0530-1900 hours on Monday-Friday and 0600-1900 hours on Saturdays, with the station closed at all other times. On January 8, 1977, service was withdrawn on Saturdays, leaving the station open during daytime weekday hours only. Service was further reduced a few months later when, on May 22, 1977, ticket agent coverage was discontinued weekday middays. Trains continued to stop during middays but to discharge passengers only; passengers could only enter the station during weekday morning and evening period.
Finally, on September 9, 1977, Cermak station closed completely. With Cermak's closure, the gap between stations on the North-South Route became over 2-1/2 miles, between Roosevelt and Tech-35th. The station was demolished in 1978.
New Cermak Station Planned
In February 2002, the City and the CTA officially acknowledged the need for an additional station on the Green Line between Roosevelt and 35th-Bronzeville-IIT. A 2002 study by the Chicago Department of Transportation examined daily boarding at potential new "in-fill" stations on the Lake Street and South Side main line Green Line branches, including Cermak as well as a number of other locations between Roosevelt and 35th. Of the locations for an intermediate stop that were discussed, the other site most seriously considered was 18th Street, which could serve developing South Loop housing, Soldier Field, and the Prairie Avenue Historic District, and which has a crosstown bus line, like Cermak Road.
"Relocating a station [at Cermak] is one of many improvements we're evaluating throughout the system," CTA spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said at the time . "We don't have a cost to reopen one... We're in the midst of a feasibility study with the city."
An artist's rendering shows the main entrance to the new Cermak-McCormick Place station, looking north on the north side of Cermak Road. The full-height glass curtain walls of the station house, polished, curved metal canopy over the entrance approach, and stylized street furniture give the facility a decidedly modern feel. For a larger view, click here. (Rendering courtesy of CDOT)
In 2009, CTA was still actively studying and considering the development of an "in-fill" station at 18th or Cermak. A new Green Line station at 18th or Cermak was part of a city planning report submitted to the Regional Transportation Authority on Tuesday, September 15, 2009.
In Autumn 2011, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a $2-a-day "congestion fee" on downtown parkers whose proceed would be used, in part, to fund the construction of a new Cermak Green Line station. The proposed $50 million station would stretch from 23rd to Cermak and would serve McCormick Place, the newly-designated Motor Row entertainment district and a residential population almost certain to grow with more "transit-oriented" development.1 In addition to the new congestion fee, funds for the station would also come from a tax increment financing (TIF) district that covers the Near South Side.2
Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein said the project is a missing link in the downtown transportation system. "Cermak has three interesting aspects. The existing population needs a stop. There's open land for transit-oriented development. And it can also serve McCormick Place," the commissioner said.3 Jim Reilly, trustee of the agency that operates McCormick Place, the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, said the new station would offer "tremendous new revenue and business" both for the convention and Navy Pier, which is to get new express bus service partially funded by the congestion tax.4
An artist's rendering shows the design for the Cermak-McCormick Place station platform, looking south. With the platform width being somewhat narrow, fitting where a center track formerly was, an almost completely unobstructed environment was designed, with full-enclosed weather protection provided by a tubular canopy with skylights for daytime illumination and lights and signs suspended from above. For a larger view, click here. (Rendering courtesy of CDOT)
At the dedication of the renovated Grand Red Line subway station on January 17, 2012, Chicago Mayor Emanuel announced the City's intention to proceed with several "L" station projects, including construction of a new Green Line station at Cermak, as well as the new Loop station at Washington/Wabash and the rehabilitation of the Clark/Division subway station.5
The design work began in March 2012. Construction was set to begin by February 2013 and expected to be complete by July 2014,6 but this timeline was extended. Daniel Burke, acting deputy commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation's engineering division, said he expected first designs for the station would be presented at a community meeting in August 2012, and plans for the station would be finalized five months after that.7 Construction has to be completed by the end of 2014 at the latest, when the Near South tax increment financing district, which is at least partially funding the project, is scheduled to expire.8
This station, which will allow another access point to McCormick Place, is expected to provide a significant boost to the convention industry and help facilitate conventioneers getting downtown quickly and affordably, as well as spur development and encourage economic development in the surrounding community.9 At the time of the groundbreaking, several development projects were in progress or on the drawing board, including a new Motor Row entertainment district around McCormick Place championed by Mayor Emanuel, anchored by new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and a 10,000-seat $173 million DePaul basketball arena that would double as an "event center" for mid-sized shows too large for Navy Pier and too small for McCormick Place.10
The project's architect will be Carol Ross Barney, who designed the unique glass and steel station at Morgan, along with transportation engineer T.Y. Lin.11
This $50 million project consists of the design and construction of a new elevated station. The new station will be ADA-accessible and have station house facilities located at grade level. The platform will be a center-island configuration for an eight-car train with canopy coverage for six cars.12 The station would have direct transfer connections to buses on Cermak Road and three entrance points -- on each side of Cermak Road and at 23rd Street -- to serve different sets of riders: neighborhood residents; Motor Row patrons and conventioneers walking two blocks over from McCormick Place.13
The main station building will be built on on the north side of Cermak Road.14 The new station will have a "sleek modern design" and a "tubular canopy" built by necessity. "It's an extremely tight footprint," explained Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein at the groundbreaking. "The city owns the land immediately around the tracks, but there's no room to build out beyond it. So, we'll be utilizing a center platform. The CTA and the mayor wanted a full canopy over the platform for protection from the elements."15
The station will be equipped with modern amenities such as elevators and state-of-the-art security,16 as well as LED lighting, a Divvy bike-sharing station and parking for 80 bikes.17
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein, CTA President Forrest Claypool, and local officials broke ground on the new Cermak Green Line station on August 29, 2013.18
The City of Chicago issued a construction building permit for the station on October 7, 2013. The general contractor for the project is F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates.19
Green Line service was suspended for short periods on several weekends during the construction period to allow work such as lifting and setting steel and doing other work very close to the tracks. Nearly all of these closure were during mornings only, from the beginning of service until 11:40am, sometimes just one day on a weekend, sometimes both weekend mornings. On a few occasions, service was suspended all weekend for more intense work to take place.
Work on the new Green Line station at Cermak continued, with construction of the three station entrances as well as the platform making significant progress. All three station houses have been framed out and work progressed on buildout of the facilities. At platform level, installation of concrete decking and canopy steel moved forward. Over the weekend of October 4-5, Green Line service was suspended to allow crews to hoist and install large structural steel tubing needed to create the elevated tunnel that will cover the tracks and platform area of the new station.
The new station was expected to be completed by the end of 2014,20 but is now scheduled to open in early 2015. Subzero temperatures earlier this year were blamed for the delay, and according to Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Pete Scales, the construction schedule was adjusted to minimize neighborhood traffic and Green Line disruptions.21
The Cermak station platforms are seen looking north on August 19, 1959. The original hump-shaped canopies were replaced with flat-roof ones, probably when the platforms were reconfigured during construction to add the third track and raise the structure to accommodate the mezzanine station house. The platforms were otherwise very simple, with plain railings and little ornamentation. The center track was not used in regular service at this point, but was still technically in service for another five years. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, Graham Garfield Collection)
Old Cermak Station (1892-1977) | New Cermak-McCormick Place Station (2013-present)
The Cermak station is seen looking east on Cermak Road. The mezzanine ended up being over the street's eastbound lanes because the roadway was widened after the station's construction.. (Photo from the Collection of Michael Roegner)
The site for a proposed bus terminal to serve the Cermak station is seen looking north on December 8, 1960, across from the "L" station. 19601208 location of proposed bus terminal. The purpose of the terminal was primarily for shuttle bus service between the "L" station and McCormick Place. (Photo from the CTA Collection)
1. Spielman, Fran. "Parking increase to fund new Cermak L station, downtown express bus service." Chicago Sun-Times. 14 October 2011.
2. Hinz, Greg. "City plans McCormick Place el station." chicagobusiness.com. 14 October 2011.
3. Spielman, ibid.
4. Hinz, ibid.
5. "Mayor Emanuel Opens Newly-Renovated Grand Avenue Red Line Station." City of Chicago press release, January 17, 2012.
6. City of Chicago, ibid.
7. Meyerson, Ben. "Morgan 'L' designer will take on Cermak." Chicago Journal. 30 May 2012.
8. Meyerson, Ben. "Details emerge on Cermak Road Green Line station." Chicago Journal. 23 March 2012.
9. Cox, Ted. "CTA Breaks Ground on New Cermak-McCormick Place Station." DNAinfo Chicago, August 29, 2013.
10. Spielman, Fran. "Ground to be broken for new $50 million CTA Green Line station near McCormick Place." City Hall Early & Often blog. Voices: Sun-Times, August 29, 2013.
11. Meyerson, Ben. "Morgan 'L' designer will take on Cermak." ibid.
12. City of Chicago, "Mayor Emanuel Opens Newly-Renovated Grand Avenue Red Line Station," ibid.
13. Spielman, "Parking increase to fund new Cermak L station, downtown express bus service," ibid.
14. "Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Green Line Station." CTA press release, August 29, 2013.
15. Spielman, Fran. "City hopes Green Line station brings life to McCormick Place area." Chicago Sun-Times, August 29, 2013.
16. City of Chicago, "Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Green Line Station," ibid.
17. Spielman, "City hopes Green Line station brings life to McCormick Place area," ibid.
18. City of Chicago, "Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Green Line Station," ibid.
19. Harrison, Kyle. "New Construction Permit: $41.3M South Loop CTA construction project." Chicago Development News. October 10, 2013.
20. City of Chicago, "Mayor Emanuel Breaks Ground for Cermak Avenue Green Line Station," ibid.
21. Swartz, Tracy. "McCormick Place Green Line opening delayed to early 2015: city." RedEye, December 3, 2014 .