Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Tribune: Ghost of old 'L' branch haunts the Obama center #63rdL

We've talked about this in the past. There is a group eliciting support for ultimately restoring Green Line service to Stony Island which used to be the terminal until 1982. Check out this map from showing the East 63rd branch.
So anyway a Tribune article revisits the closure and demolition of this line past the current Green Line terminal at Cottage Grove.
When the Obama Presidential Center opens in about three years, visitors can get to it by car, Metra, bike or bus, but not by that most iconic form of Chicago transportation — the “L.”

That’s because a Green Line branch that would have led right to the center was torn down in 1997, after some community leaders complained that it was hurting development.

It is one of those Chicago decisions — like the selling of the city’s parking meter franchise — that leaves posterity scratching its head.

“It would have been so great … ” said Arthur Lyons, director of the Center for Economic Policy Analysis, which had done research in support of keeping the branch. “It was always our view that it would have helped development in that corridor.”
Let us continue how this came to be got more interesting:

Supporters of demolition argued that it interfered with development by darkening the street beneath and contributing to a perception of crime.

After a hearing and other public comment, city officials told the Federal Transit Administration that most residents favored demolition. Activists who opposed demolition charged that survey numbers were phony and that the community’s wishes were being ignored.

“They misrepresented the data,” Lyons said.

Opponents also charged that the tear-down plan was designed to permit the Apostolic Church’s and Brazier’s continued purchase of city-owned parcels along 63rd. Finney’s nonprofit also had property along 63rd.

“They (Brazier and Finney) wanted to suburbanize Woodlawn — they didn’t want to have typical urban type housing in Woodlawn,” said Jacky Grimshaw, vice president for governmental affairs at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which had opposed the razing.

CTA spokesman Stephen Mayberry said the CTA decided to raze the branch based on a number of factors, including declining ridership and “strong community support.” Workers with blowtorches started bringing down the steel structure in September 1997.

The Tribune reported last year that much of the land acquired by Brazier’s and Finney’s entities was undeveloped or used for parking, though a couple of blocks of single-family homes were built. Preservation of Affordable Housing, or POAH, a Boston-based affordable housing nonprofit organization, is now putting up new residential and retail development around the Cottage Grove station, which the CTA is planning to improve.

Brazier’s son, Rev. Byron Brazier, the Apostolic Church pastor, had no regrets when he spoke to the Tribune last year — he said the tracks were a barrier to development and that the single-familiy homes built along 63rd were a way to “build community wealth and make things better for individual families.”

Brazier said last week in a statement that the Green Line should be improved beginning at the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive station to the Cottage Grove station in order to support all of Woodlawn.

“Only enhancing Cottage Grove is insufficient for community growth and development,” said Brazier, who added that he has spoken to city officials about this.
They misrepresented data, we heard about that far more recently though in a different situation involving four high schools in a nearby community. Anyway could this still happen today I hope not, but I'll just pull more from this column:
Grimshaw, who was on the CTA board between 2009 and 2015, said the razing of an “L” branch would be more difficult today, since more people are aware of the value of transit-oriented development, which means putting high density retail and residential buildings near transit. She said it also would be harder to ignore community wishes.
As always the community should speak up. And of course what if the city wants what it wants. Perhaps the community could speak up for its public transit, what if there are louder voices who claim the community doesn't need it. Further more what if those louder voices have clout to prevail. Though I hope the process these days would make such a drastic reduction of service as the East 63rd Green Line would be made for more difficult than in 1996.

RELATED: Petition to restore East 63rd Green Line service to Stony Island #63rdL

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