Some in Woodlawn Favor Demolishing a Part of Jackson Park 'L'


By Gary Washburn

Date of Publication: April 27, 1994
Source: Chicago Tribune


Rather than rehabilitate the Green Line for its entire length, the Chicago Transit Authority should consider tearing part of it down, according to some South Side community leaders.

The surprising suggestion centers on the eastern end of the line's Jackson Park branch, between Cottage Grove and University Avenues, which runs above a section of 63rd Street that has been plagued by blight.

"I firmly believe that if the 'L' structure was not there, 63rd from Cottage Grove to Stony Island Avenue could be redeveloped with commercial nodes, which create jobs, and with housing for mixed-income people," said Bishop Arthur Brazier, pastor of the Apostolic Church of God, 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue. "I believe if they leave the 'L', they doom 63rd Street to be nothing more than a glorified alley over which that track runs."

"I've worked in Woodlawn for over 24 years, and I have watched the decline of Woodlawn and particularly 63rd Street," said Carole Millison, president of the Woodlawn Community Development Corp. "We've got vacant lots where stores used to be."

Demolition supporters contend that the line produces noise pollution, darkens the street underneath, and contributes to a perception of crime and a lack of security. They also say that ridership is low and that few people would be inconvenienced if the Jackson Park leg terminated at Cottage Grove.

Interest by potential developers should be determined before any decision is made, Millison said, and Brazier said that no action -should be taken until the wishes of residents can be determined.

CTA officials doubt that consensus among residents can be reached, but if there is widespread support for demolition, CTA President Robert Belcaster said the authority would consider it.

At the same time, he said, agency officials would have to weigh the financial impact of a demolition. The CTA might have to reimburse the U.S. government for nearly $7 million in improvements made to the Green Line in that area and lose about $6 million in grants that had been earmarked for a new station at Dorchester.

On a related issue, Belcaster said he now favors a new station on the Englewood branch of the revamped Green Line at 63rd Street and Harvard Avenue to fill a 2 1/4-mile gap between stops that would have resulted under the CTA staff's initial plan.

Officials believe the CTA could tap U.S. funds reserved for projects that promote clean air by building a park-and-ride facility in conjunction with the station.

The lot would allow motorists from the adjacent Dan Ryan Expressway to park and then board trains on the Green Line or the Dan Ryan Red Line.