As I reported earlier this week, the CTA is on target to reopen the Morse Avenue “L” station late Friday evening after the station underwent an extensive facelift. Rogers Park resident Patrick Barry has been following closely the $12 million renovation project on his CTA Station Watch blog. He issued a report yesterday, which I am reprinting in full. The photos below were all taken by Pat.
How CTA “facelift” will transform Morse Ave.
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.
The adjoining storefronts have been waterproofed and tuck-pointed; stone has been replaced, patched or painted; new insulated-glass windows are going in; and the crumbling viaducts and columns are being lovingly restored. The brightly lit stationhouse is filled with durable stainless-steel fixtures, and at track level, the new concrete platform and galvanized stairwell covers are a vast improvement on the worn-out wood of yore.
So what does this do for Morse? It builds momentum. A hundred yards east of the tracks a new 12-unit apartment building is rising next to the 100-year-old Mayne Stage entertainment venue. At Glenwood and Morse, a new bistro called Morsel (get it?) opens this month where a dollar store had held the corner. Owned by the same people as two nearby gay bars, Glenwood and Sidecar, Morsel will add another option to the area’s quirky restaurant scene.
Also at 6928 N. Glenwood, a new store called Armilla will open in September, featuring furnishings, art, pottery and curiosities, adding to the area’s growing status as an arts district. “It’s the neighborhood,” said Ron Reizner, co-owner of the shop with his wife Susan Hahn Reizner. They looked for space in Andersonville and other neighborhoods, but settled on Glenwood because of its vibe – and its lower cost.
So as the station reopens to serve its 4,400 weekday riders and as people ride the train to the Glenwood Arts Festival on August 18-19 and theGlenwood Sunday Market each weekend, it’s not inappropriate to consider what other new investment is coming to Morse.
With several underutilized properties within walking distance of that shiny new station, it looks like Morse Avenue has a new lease on life.