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Can a new 'L' construction project turn a dark Woodlawn intersection into a bright spot?

February 5, 2018

By Mary Wisniewski, Chicago Tribune

Novelist Nelson Algren wrote that “Every day is D-Day under the ‘L.’ ”

The space under the “L” station at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue has that battlefield vibe — noisy, dark, gritty and claustrophobic.

But community planners, developers, the city and the CTA are working on changing the feel of the Woodlawn intersection through new construction that will open it up to more sunlight, and make street and “L” station design changes to add light and improve safety. The idea is to make the Green Line terminal more of a neighborhood bright spot.

“There’s not a lot of crime that happens under there, but there is the appearance of it,” said LaShunda Gonzalez, Choice Neighborhoods Director for the Preservation of Affordable Housing, or POAH, a Boston-based affordable housing nonprofit organization which is putting up new buildings on the corner. “It’s very dark. ... The staircase and walkways are littered.”

A key problem is that the station is right over the intersection, like a roof, and the buildings around it are crowded close to the “L” support pillars, blocking out the sun. The most prominent structure is the vacant four-story Washington Park National Bank building on the southwest corner, a 94-year-old structure that is so dilapidated a small tree is growing on top.

So what’s happening around the 63rd and Cottage Grove station? A new building called Woodlawn Station, a mix of retail and apartments, is going up on the northeast corner, developed by POAH and to be completed by June.

A building on the southeast corner will be torn down and another new POAH building, all retail, is going up. This means Daley’s, a Woodlawn institution since 1892, is going to move across the street into the new Woodlawn Station building this coming fall.

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