It's been nearly two years since then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Green Line "L" stop at Damen Avenue—which was supposed to open in 2021. But work still hasn't officially begun on the $60 million Near West Side station.
City officials are hopeful things will get going this summer when the long-delayed project is finally expected to break ground for real. If everything moves forward as planned, the transit improvement should take 24 months to complete and open in the middle of 2023.
The two-year setback was caused by it taking longer than expected to get to the bidding stage of the construction process, a Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson told Streetsblog Chicago last week. The COVID-19 pandemic also contributed to the project's delay, the spokesperson said.
Construction crews have managed to complete "advance work" ahead of the Damen stop which included relocating utilities and reinforcing underground foundations in preparation for the new structure.
Designed by global architecture firm Perkins + Will, the ADA-accessible station will feature an oversize glass entryway with a large staircase and escalator leading up to the tracks. A pedestrian bridge enclosed by green trusses will connect the inbound and outbound platforms to elevators.
The project will fill a roughly 1.5-mile gap in service between the Ashland and California stops. An elevated rail station existed at Damen Avenue as far back as 1893, but the stop was demolished in 1948.
The new station will serve nearby residents as well as finally give crowds attending events at the United Center a much-needed mass transit option. The desire to put a Pink Line stop at the UC, however, appears to be less of a priority for the time being.
"Residents of the Near West Side and the 27th Ward will be very happy to see work getting started on the new Damen and Lake station," said Ald. Walter Burnett two years ago at the project's 2019 groundbreaking event. "We’ve seen the kind of impact a new CTA station can have at Morgan Street. By investing in this community’s transportation options, we are creating a brighter future for everyone who lives and does business here."
The long-discussed Damen station hasn't materialized but it's still acting as a catalyst for transit-oriented development in the area. Earlier this month, a 12-story mixed-income apartment complex with 96 units (and parking for just 16 cars) earned preliminary zoning approval from the Chicago Plan Commission.
At this point, it's unclear which one will arrive first: the station, or the new apartments it's designed to serve.