CTA board approves lease agreement with the University of Chicago to create welcome center to promote local community and small business owners
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) today announced that its original historic Garfield stationhouse, one of the oldest rapid transit stations in the U.S., will be transformed into a welcome center, community space and small business incubator in the heart of the Washington Park neighborhood. This plan is the latest step in the ambitious Garfield Gateway Project announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr., earlier this year.
The Chicago Transit Board today approved a contract with Lake Park Associates, Inc., a subsidiary of the University of Chicago, under which the University, working with its affiliates, will invest $219,000 towards renovations of the original Garfield stationhouse. This stationhouse is located across the street from the Garfield Green station that has been in operation since 2001.
The agreement will complement a renaissance that is occurring along Garfield Boulevard that includes the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative’s Arts Block project, led by renowned Chicago artist Theaster Gates. The Arts Block project aims to boost Garfield Boulevard through cultural, civic and commercial spaces and programs, and the new welcome center will serve as a community gateway to the Arts Block and the neighborhood.
“By investing in transit, we are making investments in our neighborhoods, as evidenced by the positive changes happening in the Washington Park community,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The Garfield Gateway project will complement the larger neighborhood redevelopment that is already under way while improving the overall commuter experience.”
“It is truly a win for the Washington Park community to have this historic gem restored and repurposed as investment in transit is paired with investment in local communities,” said CTA President Carter. “I thank the University of Chicago for its partnership in what is an exciting transformation occurring along Garfield and in the Washington Park neighborhood.”
“The Garfield Gateway project and University of Chicago’s investment in the Washington Park neighborhood support our goal of revitalizing this great community,” said Ald. Patricia Dowell (3rd Ward). “The new welcome center and small business incubator will showcase the best of our community as it also serves our residents.”
In addition, the upgrades and beautification plans for the station support the larger community’s revitalization efforts to spur economic growth and improve quality of life for nearby residents.
The historic Garfield station will serve many purposes in Washington Park:
- Neighborhood improvement and promotion. The welcome center will be a platform for artists, entrepreneurs and local groups to create public programming, and will devote permanent space to promote events and provide historic information about the neighborhood. The University of Chicago will work with numerous civic and business partners in creating local programming.
- Business incubator. The center will serve as an incubator for small, local businesses, including providing small business training (office space, financial and accounting skills, marketing assistance, etc.) and access to University and financial networks.
- Visual markers/community partnership. Visual markers will be created on or next to the welcome center that celebrate Washington Park history.
The welcome center is expected to open by the end of 2018.
“The renovation and reimagining of the historic Green Line CTA station will be an important component of the Arts Block, which aims to transform a surrounding stretch of East Garfield Boulevard into a major arts and culture corridor in Washington Park,” said Derek Douglas, the University of Chicago’s Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs. “Leasing the station to extend its use underscores the University’s commitment to supporting vibrant mid-South Side neighborhoods and to finding new ways to engage with local residents and visitors to the South Side. We look forward to engaging the community to consider future uses for the space.”
Following a competitive procurement process, the University submitted the highest bid and will have a 10-year lease agreement with the CTA with an option to renew the lease for an additional 10 years.
The welcome center is the latest development for the $50 million Garfield Gateway project announced by Mayor Emanuel in January 2017. The Garfield Gateway project will benefit transit riders, bicyclists and pedestrians, while supporting and promoting ongoing revitalization of Washington Park. The project includes extensive improvements to the Garfield Green station in operation today, including upgrading platforms, improving elevators and escalators; and installing public art and landscaping.
In coordination with the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Garfield Gateway project will also include streetscape enhancements next to the station to better integrate the variety of existing transportation uses and create a stronger community centerpiece.
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