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The Biggest Urban Renewal Flubs: Jackson Park 'L' Removal

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In this special Curbed series, we're going to line up four nominees for biggest urban renewal flub , and later today we'll put it to a readers' vote. It's hard not to be partisan in making our selections, but some criteria may help. At least some of these standards should be met: 1) Significant fracturing of community 2) Social engineering gone wrong 3) Extreme concentrations of poverty and/or crime 4) Wasteful land use 5) Undemocratic planning process. Today's Pick: The Jackson Park 'L' Branch:


[Jackson Park/Stony Island Station c.1950: flickr user WayOutWardell]

It may seem minor, but the gradual removal of the Jackson Park branch of the Green Line did significant damage to the connectivity of South Side transportation. Until 1982, the branch stretched east along 63rd Street right to Jackson Park at Stony Island Ave. When the branch first opened in 1892 (the first elevated stretch in the city) it actually went into the park, as it was built to serve the World's Columbian Exposition. A year later, it was pulled back to the edge— better than having a train rumbling through the park. But in 1982, Stony Island Station was closed and the line terminated at University/63rd. That too closed in 1994, and the terminus became 63rd/Cottage Grove. Simultaneously, two stops just to the North, at 58th and 61st were closed.

Pressure from community leaders led to the city's decision to tear down the mile or so of track. The tracks were deteriorating and posed an obstacle to commercial development along 63rd. This may be true, but the city as a whole lost easy access to Jackson Park, arguably the best park in the city. The neighborhood and University of Chicago students lost proximate 'L' stops and a useful transfer point between the 63rd St. Metra and Stony Island stations. Taken together with the removal of several stops between Roosevelt and Bronzeville/IIT in the 40s, the Green Line provides only skeletal service to the South Side, at a time when CTA ridership is growing.
·Rapid Transit System [Encyclopedia of Chicago]
·Green Line Entry [Wikipedia]
·Facts at a Glance [CTA]