Only the pigeons shunned the gleaming, swoopy thing Thursday, preferring instead the familiar comforts of the flaking, corrugated L station roof just to the south.
“It’s beautiful. It’s clean. It’s all stainless [steel]. It’s well lighted,” gushed Pamela Hajek, 66, of Oak Park as she arrived at the CTA’s newest station — a $75 million project two years in the making — at Washington and Wabash Thursday morning.
Other passengers stopped to take selfies, while an army of CTA workers in shiny orange-and-lime-colored vests flitted around the station, buffing smudged elevator door windows and generally making sure everything was working as it should for the stop’s grand opening.
The new station includes wider platforms, digital displays and an undulating canopy fringed with delicate LED lighting.
Later Thursday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a news conference on the mezzanine to laud the first new L station in the Loop in 20 years — one he called “the new gold standard for what a subway station, an L station should look like across the city of Chicago.”
Emanuel also thanked nearby residents and especially the merchants on Wabash Avenue’s Jewelers Row, who endured a loss of parking, blocked streets and more during the years of construction.
“I want to thank you for your patience. This has been somewhat more than just difficult. It’s been a real imposition,” Emanuel said. “So to everyone who’s here, you’ve got to go to the jewelers and you’ve got to buy your loved one a gift.”
The platform, which replaces stations at Randolph/Wabash and Madison on the east leg of the Loop L was greeted with near universal approval by commuters Thursday.
“It just seems more roomy, cozy. It seems very refined,” said Eric Striegel, 32, who lives in Lincoln Square. “When I was walking down the stairs, I noticed I had more room. I wasn’t bumping into people.”
The Madison stop closed in March 2015 in preparation for the project. The Randolph/Wabash stop is set to close Sunday. The old platform, with creaky wood platforms and layer upon layer of flaking paint will be missed by some.
“It’s historical,” said Aladdin Osman, 30, a downtown architect. “They need to keep it. It’s the history of Chicago.”
Willie Dickerson, 66, disagrees. He’s spent much of the last 19 years sitting in the shadow of the L tracks on Wabash, asking for “blessings” from passersby.
“Young man, your kindness will not be forgotten,” he said, as a man in a suit dropped two quarters in Dickerson’s empty coffee cup.
Dickerson, who lives in a shelter, was there when the project began and was there Thursday. He said the clatter and bang of construction never bothered him.
“When you do good things to Chicago, it draws people — tourists,” he said. “And that’s exactly what you want, and revenue too.”
Contributing: Fran Spielman