The design of the Damen station, seen on August 9, 1946, was typical of the Victorian-style station houses originally built for the Lake Street Elevated in 1893-94. Within two years of the photo being taken, the station would be closed. It, and all of the surrounding buildings, would eventually be cleared. For a larger view, click here. (Charles E. Keevil photo, Walter R. Keevil archive)
Damen Avenue and Lake Street, Near West Side
Lake Street Division
Established: November 6, 1893
Original Line: Lake Street Elevated Railroad
Previous Names: Robey Street
Skip-Stop Type: n/a
Rebuilt: 2018-24 (projected)
Status: Under construction
Robey Street station was typical of those built in 1892-93 for the Lake Street Elevated Railroad -- similar to stations at Ashland, Homan and Sacramento, among many others -- designed by its engineering staff and built by the Lloyd and Pennington Company.
A flagman protects workers on the platform from passing trains as crews dismantle the Damen station on the Lake Street Elevated in 1949. For a larger view, click here. (CTA photo, from CTA Transit News)
The station had twin station houses and side platforms for boarding inbound and outbound trains. The station houses were designed in a Queen Anne style with a Victorian Gothic influence. The station houses had gabled roofs with two windowless gabled dormers each. Each roof was topped with a unique square cupola with a diamond pattern and a steeply hipped roof with a small gabled dormer in each of the four sides. These structures represent a unique attempt to apply the Queen Anne architectural style.
The station had side platforms, covered by tin-covered peaked-roof canopies supported by a row of steel center posts. The posts had decorative elements cast into them, most notably in the top angle bracket that supported the canopy braces. The Lake Street Elevated stations also originally had elaborate railings on the platforms with decorative scroll metalwork.
Robey station was renamed Damen by the early 1930s, when the street it served was renamed.
The station was closed in 1948 when the CTA revamped service on the Lake Street Line -- the first of a series of line-by-line service overhauls -- by closing 10 little-used stations and implementing A/B skip-stop service to speed up trains on the route. The station, along with Morgan, Racine, Oakley, Campbell, Sacramento, and Kostner, was demolished in early 1949. Prior to the start of wrecking work, all usable equipment, such as newer lumber, doors, and newer railings were removed for reuse elsewhere. Platform girders from the dismantled stations were reused to lengthen platforms at other "L" stations.
A New Damen Station Returns
A 2002 study by the Chicago Department of Transportation examined daily boarding at potential new "in-fill" stations -- stations that close the gap between existing stations, particularly where those gaps are longer than typical intervals between stops -- on the Lake Street and South Side main line Green Line branches, including Morgan on the Lake Street branch. Based on that study, the City built stations on the Green Line at Morgan in 2012 and Cermak-McCormick Place in 2015. Damen was one of the other sites on the Lake branch studied at the time, being projected to have the second highest number of boardings of the locations analyzed.
Mayor Emanuel announces plans for a new Damen station at the Ashland station on February 9, 2017. Behind Emanuel and to the left are CTA chairman Peterson and president Carter; to the immediate right is CDOT commissioner Scheinfeld. For a larger view, click here. (Photo courtesy of the CTA)
On February 9, 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Alderman Walter Burnett, CTA President Dorval R. Carter and city officials to announce plans for a new station on the Green Line at Damen. The new station will fill a 1.5-mile gap between existing Green Line stations at California and Ashland to better serve the growing business corridor and residential neighborhood on Chicago's Near West side.
The CTA will work in coordination with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development and community stakeholders to carry out the project. Funding for the project will be provided by the Kinzie Industrial Corridor Tax Increment Financing district. Ald. Burnett said he was also lobbying state and federal agencies to help offset the cost of the project.1
The Damen station will serve a Near West Side community that has seen notable residential and commercial growth in recent years. The new station will improve public transit options for businesses in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor, a planned manufacturing district that includes firms with workforces that come from surrounding neighborhoods and companies, like breweries, that draw visitors to the area. Key for those businesses are transit options to get to the site and to better connect the district with the center of the city, according to Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago Executive Director Steve DeBretto.2 The station will also serve nearby residents, including tenants of the Chicago Housing Authority's Villages of Westhaven complex.
The station will also serve visitors to the United Center. Although it is not the new station's sole or primary purpose, officials had been eyeing better service to the United Center for some time. A new station closer to the United Center on the Pink Line at Madison had been suggested in the past by transit advocates, but officials said the area just north of the United Center had sparked residential and commercial growth in recent years, making Damen a better site so the station could serve multiple markets and functions. The TIF funding that is being used to finance the station's construction is also available at the Damen site, but a Madison station would be outside of the Kinzie Industrial Corridor TIF boundaries and other funding for a Madison station is not readily available.
The $60 million Damen station project is being led by CDOT and is being designed by Perkins+Will, a global architecture and design firm known for striking transit station projects around the world.
View of the planned Damen station, with the open, airy station house and signature green steel bridge, looking west. For a larger view, click here. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
In July 2018, designs and renderings were released showing the design for the planned station. The first public images of the new station were unveiled July 9 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and officials from the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Ald. Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward.3
The modern station is designed to be open and airy, with intuitive circulation and striking, signature visual elements. According to Perkins+Will,
The concepts of transparency and open plan will result in a station that is safe, where patrons have clear site lines within the station and to and from the street, supporting its use at all hours of the day and night. The station materials and design elements were chosen and arranged to enhance and simplify the user experience of the facility. Design of the circulation spaces - public spaces, entrances, stairs, escalators, elevators - will be laid out to encourage intuitive wayfinding for users and to provide easy access to local community amenities, pedestrian and bike paths and other modes of transit.4
The design features is topped by a glass-enclosed bridge with exposed green steel trusses connecting the inbound and outbound platforms, while providing spectacular views of the downtown skyline. The green trusses along the bridge reflect the name of the CTA line and are a dynamic reference to the famous steel bridges throughout the city and a memorable icon for the station.5 The visible structure of the pedestrian bridge, with green support beams forming triangles, will reference other Chicago steel bridges, according to the city.6
Rendering of the station house interior, showing its open feel, high ceiling, and grand staircase. For a larger view, click here. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
The station will have a ground-level station house on the southwest corner of Damen and Lake, on a 12,300 square foot city-owned parcel. The entrance is designed to be an striking space, with not only a large footprint and capacity, but a two-story ceiling and full-height windows facing Damen and a plaza in front. The plaza will feature a bus waiting shelter -- an extension of the station building structure -- with benches, information posters and digital screens, and, although absent from the renderings, will include landscaping, per CDOT spokesperson Mike Claffey.7
The station house and the area outside it are so large, Claffey said, to accommodate crowds going to and coming from the United Center. He said his department counted about 160 events at the stadium annually.8
The station house will feature a low concrete wall on the south and west sides, and a wood-paneled south wall and ceiling. After passing through the turnstiles, passengers will encounter a grand stair and escalator ascending to an indoor lobby at platform level, with doors leading directly to the inbound platform and another set of stairs up to the transfer bridge to cross over to the outbound platform.
The station will feature dual side platforms extending across Damen Avenue. The platforms will have precast concrete decks. Each platform will have a canopy covering most of its length. Renderings show each canopy designed with a flat, angled roof cantilevered from a row of I-beam support columns along the back of the platform.
The platforms will have non-accessible auxiliary exits at both ends of each platform, in addition to the single entrance on the southeast side of the station. Asked by Streetsblog Chicago why either platform -- but especially the outbound platform -- could not have an unstaffed high-barrier gate (HBG) auxiliary entrance for more direct access, Claffey said that if there was a non-accessible entrance to the westbound platform there would have to be an accessible entrance to the westbound platform. And if there's another accessible entrance, then there has to be another CTA station assistant,9 something that was presumably felt to not be preferable.
On May 3, 2019, it was announced that art for the station will be created by Folayemi (Fo) Wilson, a noted Chicago artist from blkHaUS studios who teaches at Columbia College. The City's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) chose Wilson to create murals for the station. Wilson is working on a series of two-dimensional collages that will focus on three aspects of the West Side's rich history: ethnic migration and cultural representation; architectural style and development; and industry and business. The inclusion of art work that is inspiring and thought-provoking for both transit employees and members of the surrounding community is a major element in the construction of new CTA stations.10
Station Renovation Work
Officials break ground for the new Damen Green Line station on April 25, 2018. For a larger view, click here. (CTA Photo)
CDOT and CTA broke ground on the Damen station project on April 25, 2018 at an event attended by CTA President Dorval Carter, CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld and and Alderman Walter Burnett (27th Ward).
The initiative started with a $12.9 million project to fully reconstruct a half-mile stretch of Lake Street from Ashland to Damen. The roadway work improved access for trucks in the bustling Kinzie Industrial Corridor by increasing the vertical clearance under the "L" tracks, and also began the setup for the new station by relocating four structural columns that support the elevated tracks at the intersection of Damen and Lake to accommodate the new station. The Lake Street reconstruction project was complete by the end of 2018.
The site of the future Damen station house, seen looking northwest on December 29, 2020 as a 63rd-bound Green Line train passes. For a larger view, click here. (Photo by Graham Garfield)
With the completion of the advance work at the site, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by Alderman Walter Burnett, CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, and CTA President Dorval Carter at a groundbreaking for the Damen station on May 3, 2019. The work commemorated that day represented the start of foundation work on the station itself.11
Little work appeared to have taken place immediately after the groundbreaking, however. While at the time of the groundbreaking event it was stated that the station was expected to open in 202112, the construction contract to build the station was not actually advertised for bid until early 2021. Asked about the delay, a city official in March 2021 said advertising for bids took longer than initially anticipated. The pandemic affected the pace of the project, as well.13 In October 2022, CDOT said the completion date was first pushed back a year because the city had to wait for the station design to be finished before awarding a construction contract. Then was pushed back again because of the advance work needed to relocate utilities and reinforce column foundations, along with supply chain challenges and delays in getting materials.14
The City of Chicago advertised for construction contractors for the station work on January 8, 2021.15 The city began accepting requests for proposals from construction contractors March 10. At that tine, CDOT said, if the bidding process stayed on track, notice to proceed was anticipated in the following 60 to 90 days.16 However, it took a few months longer than that.
The station construction contract was awarded on Wednesday, September 28, 2021. The Chicago-based firm FH Paschen won the contract with a bid of $67,316,000 -- that bid would suggest that the total project cost has grown from the original budget of $60 million.17 The station and related work on Lake Street under the tracks are expected to cost about $80 million, funded by the Kinzie Industrial Corridor Tax Increment Financing District, according to the city. CDOT said the $80 million figure includes the nearby site work, and the $67.3 million construction contract.18
According to CDOT, once ground is broken, construction of the new Damen station will take up to 24 months to complete.19
Site utility work and track column replacement activities would be ongoing from May 2022 through October 2023, according to a CDOT Construction Activity Notice.20
In October 2022, CDOT projected the Damen station would be complete in the first quarter of 2024.21 By September 2023, the projected opening had moved out slightly to spring 2024.22
View of the planned Damen station, with the open, airy station house and signature green steel bridge, looking west at dusk. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
Rendering of the platform level, looking south from the outbound platform toward the inbound platform, with the overhead transfer bridge connecting the platforms. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
View looking west on the inbound platform, with the elevator towers, transfer bridge, and station house visible in the background. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
Conceptual view inside the signature overhead transfer bridge, looking southeast with the downtown skyline visible on the left and the United Center and West Side on the right. To the right are the stairs and elevator to the inbound platform and station house; access to the outbound platform is behind. The portion of the bridge ahead is strictly for observation and scene-viewing. (Perkins+Will rendering, courtesy of the CTA)
1. Lulay, Stephanie. "New $50 Million Green Line Station Planned Near United Center". DNAinfo Chicago, February 9, 2017.
2. Freishtat, Sarah. "New CTA Green Line station at Damen set to open in 2024." Chicago Tribune, October 31, 2022.
3. "Perkins+Will-Designed Damen Green Line Station Will Enhance Access and Economic Development in the Near West Side." perkinswill.com, July 16, 2018. Accessed January 29, 2019.
6. Wisniewski, Mary, "City releases design of new Damen Green Line CTA station." Chicago Tribune, July 9, 2018.
7. Vance, Steven, “City Should Raise Priority of Using Damen Green Line Station to Prime Good Land Use.” Streetsblog Chicago blog, Aug 15, 2018.
10. "Mayor Emanuel Joins Alderman Burnett, CDOT, CTA and DCASE at Groundbreaking for New CTA Green Line Station at Damen & Lake." CTA press release, May 3, 2019.
13. Pena, Mauricio. "Damen Green Line Station Will Break Ground This Summer Despite 2-Year Delay, City Says." Block Club Chicago, March 24, 2021.
14. Freishtat, ibid.
15. "Electronic Bid: Damen Green Line Elevated CTA Station", spec #1186934. City of Chicago Current Bid Opportunities website. Accessed January 15, 2021.
16. Pena, ibid.
17. Greenfield, John. "At last! The city has inked a contract for Damen Line Green stop construction with Paschen." Streetsblog Chicago blog, October 1, 2021.
18. Freishtat, ibid.
19. Pena, ibid.
20. "CDOT Construction Acrtivity Notice," distributed in Ald. Burnett's 27th Ward newsletter, May 4, 2022.
21. Freishtat, ibid..
22. Shepherd, Carrie. "What to watch as Democrats prepare for 2024 DNC in Chicago." Axios Chicago, September 14, 2023.