How CTA station ‘facelift’ will transform Morse Avenue

(Guest post by Patrick Barry)

What does $12 million buy? In Rogers Park, where the CTA is spending about that much to rehabilitate the Morse station, it buys the next phase of revival for a once-tired shopping district.

Thirty years ago, Morse Avenue was home to a Jewel grocery store, dime store, health-food shop, two drug stores, clothing and shoe stores, several restaurants and a 31 Flavors ice cream shop. It endured a slow and painful decline in the 1980s and ‘90s, and only in the last few years have there been signs of a turnaround.

Now, with perfect timing, we’re getting the Morse station rehab.

The station reopens at 11:59 this Friday night, and I couldn’t have imagined it would turn out this well. What we’ve seen over the past two months, as crews and equipment have swarmed the station in a blitz rebuilding effort, is much more than the “facelift” that CTA promised for the seven-station, $86 million job.

It’s new life for the station and the adjacent business district.

What’s remarkable is not just the quality of the work and the materials being used (see related story), but the faithfulness to the original design. When the old Lawrence stationhouse was torn out in 1995 to allow viaduct improvements, it was replaced with a “temporary” chain-link enclosure that is still in use today. So when crews tore out the white-tile walls, terrazzo floor and heavy wood swinging doors at Morse, I was concerned that we’d get something closer to chain-link Lawrence than the classy new Morgan station on the Green/Pink Lines.

I was wrong. The rebuilt station will sport gleaming white-tile walls just like the old station, and a built-to-last terrazzo floor very similar to the one it replaced, except without the big cracks and gashes from nine decades of use.

Read more at CTA Station Watch.

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  • The "built to last" indicates to me that they don't really think they are going to get the money for the RPM, despite what the press release on the track repairs said Wednesday.

    On the other hand, after all the construction on the rapid transit during the past 12 or so years, it is somewhat surprising that the core of the system was allowed to fall apart to this extent. But, knowing CTA management during that time, not that surprising.

  • In reply to jack:

    Well, I would definitely say that station consolidation is out, at least for the next decade. Doesn't make sense to rebuild a station if you're going to get rid of it. Basic Rehabilitation Alternative or Modernization without consolidation might still be in play, but the latter is definitely expensive. I think they go with the former eventually, assuming it ever gets started.

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