Station Entrance Closes, Project Work Gears Up


By Kathy Routliffe

Date of Publication: October 17, 2002
Source: Skokie Review


Skokie closed the Dempster Street entrance to the Skokie Swift station's south parking lot Wednesday, as work on the station complex's Operation Green Light Project -- and eastward relocation of the historic train station there -- gears up.

Commuters who use the lot, and people patronizing the CTA, Pace and Greyhound bus stops at the train station, will still be able to do so, Village Manager Al Rigoni said.

Drivers can get into the lot, which has about 680 parking spaces, three blocks south of Dempster through a Conrad Street entrance. Bus users will board and be dropped off on Dempster Street. That includes patrons of the CTA 54A and 97 routes as well as Pace and Greyhound passengers.

"We're asking the public to be patient with us. We do understand that closing the Dempster street entrance is significant, but safety dictated that. You can't build a rail and relocate a building without taking safety into consideration," Rigoni said.

The private developers plan to move the building 130 feet to the east and renovate it for commercial use expect to do so by placing it on a short rail line. Work already has started on the new foundation for the building, spokesman Seymour Taxman said Tuesday.

His group is now waiting for Commonwealth Edison to relocate some of its electrical wires on the property.

The lines currently run between the train station and the new site, Taxman said.

"The sooner they get the poles moved, then the sooner the inconvenience to the public is ended, because the sooner we can get the building moved."

Rigoni said an agreement has already been executed with Commonwealth Edison to do the work.

Taxman and fellow developer Scott Gendell expect to renovate the building and bring small boutique-style businesses in, anchoring the center with a coffee house that would have a drive-through and a patio area. They have previously estimated their costs to be about $1 million.

Rigoni said the site might not be ready for transporting the building until close to the end of the 30 day closure. If it is necessary to work beyond that period, "we will obviously will do the signage to explain to the public what is going on," he said.

He said moving the power lines is also necessary to allow Skokie to begin construction of a new parking lot.

That is part of the "Operation Green Light" reconstruction and upgrade project Skokie is administering on behalf of the village, the state and the various transit companies that use the station.

The project was originally to have started in the mid- and late-1990s, but at that point plans included razing the train station. It stalled when preservationists fought to save the station, which was designed by architect Arthur U. Gerber and opened in 1925.

They won the building a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2000 Skokie agreed to look for developers willing to renovate it.

Once Skokie gave the go-ahead to Taxman and Gendell in 2001, Greenlight restarted. This week Rigoni said an engineering consultant is working on project specification.

Skokie expects to go out for bids this winter. At that point it will be able to find out how much inflation has affected the original $1 million project cost estimate.

Village officials will then meet with their state counterparts, since the state is financing the project.