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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

How Can North Side Businesses Survive A Massive Red Line Overhaul? City Steps Up To Help, But ‘It’s Gonna Suck’

Work to modernize the north branch of the Red Line will impact nearby businesses until 2024.

Work to overhaul the north branch of the Red and Purple lines has begun.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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UPTOWN — In a few years, Uptown and Edgewater’s Red Line corridors will have expansive new stations, better transit service and improved streetscapes.

But until then, businesses near the Red Line will have to endure five years of “heavy, heavy impacts” due to the massive CTA renovation project, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said.

Work on the CTA’s $2 billion Red Purple Modernization project is officially underway in Uptown and Edgewater, with crews prepping for future work on new tracks and stations along the transit line’s north branch. The project is likely to have a huge impact on nearby businesses, but city officials are working to make sure the commercial area’s near the Red Line continue to thrive.

On Tuesday, Osterman’s office joined the CTA and other agencies to begin a series of open houses on how the Red Purple Modernization project will impact the area. The meetings seek to answer questions about the upcoming work, as well as to tell businesses about the services available to help them in the years to come.

“This is a project that’s going to affect us all,” Osterman said at the meeting. “For us to survive this and thrive, we have to do it together as a team.”

The new Red Line tracks, shown in a rendering of Balmoral Avenue, will be taller than the existing track and will not require support beams in the roadway. [Courtesy CTA]
The new Red Line tracks, shown in a rendering of Balmoral Avenue, will be taller than the existing track and will not require support beams in the roadway. [Courtesy CTA]

On hand at the meeting was the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. The department showed examples of signage it can put in front of work sites to advertise that nearby businesses are still open despite the construction activity.

The department is also planning to host technical assistance workshops with businesses like Google and Facebook to make sure local store owners can get the word out and find their customers online, said Isaac Reichman, director of public information for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Crews for the CTA have begun the preparatory work necessary to eventually construct new track lines and four new stations at Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr.

Weekend closures of the Bryn Mawr, Thorndale and Granville Red Line stations have already gone into effect, and will be required nearly every weekend through the spring, CTA officials said.

Eventually, the Berwyn and Lawrence stations will go offline and remain shuttered until the replacements are built — which will take about three years, city officials have said. Temporary stations will be built at Bryn Mawr and Argyle, with work on the temporary stations to begin late this year.

Work on the Red Line is slated to last until 2024, according to the CTA.

The years-long shutdown has nearby business owners worried if they can hold out until the project is finished.

“It’s gonna suck,” Taylor Brewerton, general manager of Chicago Grind near Berwyn station, said at a previous community meeting. “I won’t pretend that the commuter-business sting won’t make things more difficult for us. Fortunately, we are a beloved little lunch spot and I know we can survive.”

CTA and other agencies have been working on plans to help out the nearby businesses. Contractors working on the project will have to collect the garbage of businesses impacted by alley closures, CTA spokesperson Tammy Chase said.

The transit agency has also rolled out a marketing campaign called “Shop. Eat. Play. Explore.” which will seek to drive customers to impacted businesses. The campaign rolled out early this year, according to a flier at Tuesday’s meeting.

The city will host two more open houses on the Red Purple Modernization project this week. They both will take place on Thursday, one from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. at St. Ita’s Church, 5500 N. Broadway, and one from 4 p.m. -8 p.m. at St. Ita’s.

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