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Renovated Damen Blue Line station reopens after two months of work

About 20 or 30 minutes of extra time to spend in bed, work on personal grooming, watch SportsCenter or ponder the salary of Jay Cutler — whatever your morning routine entails.

It’s the average amount of time — according to a crude Monday morning survey — that Wicker Park CTA commuters will shave off their travel times now that the Damen Street Blue Line station has reopened after two months of rehab construction.

“I’m very thankful. I live, like, four houses away, and I was really ready for it to re-open,” said Anne Hoesly, who’s 27 and not a morning person. She had been taking a bus to a different CTA stop in the interim. The reopening lopped 15 minutes off her morning commute. “It looks beautiful. Everything looks brand new and clean. I’m really excited about it.”

The station even had that new CTA smell. Enjoy it while it lasts.

“I like it,” said Bob Nisbett, 65. “They moved the area where you stand under the heat lamps away from the stairs because it tends to get crowded there and harder to get through, and they put up electronic signs. It’s good, worth the wait.”

But not everyone was pleased.

“This took two months? You’ve got to be kidding me. It looks the same,” said one woman who asked not to be named. “They couldn’t have done the construction in warmer weather?”

<em>The rehabbed Damen station on the Blue Line has paneled walls, granite floors and new LED lighting, according to the CTA.</em> | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
The rehabbed Damen station on the Blue Line has paneled walls, granite floors and new LED lighting, according to the CTA. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

The renovated station house now has dark wood-paneled walls and granite flooring. It has new concrete paving and bike racks and upgraded LED lighting, according to the CTA.

On the platform, there’s a new wood deck with a tactile edge, rehabilitated historic canopies, new or rehabbed historic railings and new LED lighting, windbreaks, benches and signs.

Chris Miller and Hattie Cullom were among those waiting for a train on that new platform Monday morning.

Cullom said the reopening of the station was “exciting,” and Miller, like others, noted the time it was shaving off the commute.

“It’s great, because before, we were taking the bus to the train, so that will take 10 minutes off,” Miller said.

The Damen station had closed Oct. 20 for renovations, part of the CTA’s “Your New Blue” program, a four-year, $492-million upgrade.

Miller, who has lived in Wicker Park for three years, took a bus to the Division station during that time, he said. He was “surprised” when his regular station reopened on schedule.

“I thought it was going to be delayed,” he said.

The major complaint that CTA workers heard Monday morning: The station still has no escalator or elevator.

Below the renovated platform, there was a buzz of activity Monday morning.

Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia visited at about 7 a.m. to shake hands with area residents as they walked through the doors.

Several neighboring businesses — such as Stan’s Donuts, Glazed and Infused, Flash Taco and La Colombe — also offered freebies to commuters this week to celebrate the reopening.

Contributing: Emily McFarlan Miller