CTA to announce retail tenant for transformed Wilson Red Line station

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The restored Gerber Building, part of the Wilson station on the CTA Red Line, will welcome a new tenant. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

The Wilson Red Line stop’s transformation from grungy to grand is about to be completed.

Next week, the Chicago Transit Authority is expected to announce that Chicago Market, “a community-owned grocery store,” will occupy the newly restored and historic Gerber Building that is part of the station, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times Tuesday.

The future of the 13,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts building has been a hot issue in the Uptown neighborhood, with some residents concerned the CTA, which owns the space, might lease it to a fast-food chain restaurant.

Officials with the transit agency wouldn’t confirm the identity of the new tenant Tuesday.

“Until our board has the opportunity to review and consider the lease at the Wilson station, we’re unable to comment on a pending procurement,” said CTA spokeswoman Tammy Chase. “The pending new tenant at the newly reconstructed Wilson station will be an exciting development for the Uptown community and CTA customers, and we look forward to announcing the project after our board has voted on the proposal.”

A grocery is expected to occupy this space inside the Gerber Building at the Wilson station on the CTA Red Line. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

A grocery is expected to occupy this space inside the Gerber Building at the Wilson station on the CTA Red Line. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

The Chicago Market name surfaced more than a year ago as a possible tenant. The organization, a locally based co-op, submitted a bid last June. The group is planning a “big, bright, beautiful community-owned grocery store featuring local, sustainably farmed, organic produce, meat and dairy products, as well as all of the other staples you’d expect from your market,” according to the organization’s web site. The market also plans to sell wine and spirits.

A spokesman for Chicago Market had no immediate comment, but promised more information soon.

The majestic Gerber Building rose at the corner of Wilson and Broadway during Uptown’s heyday in the 1920s, when the neighborhood was an entertainment mecca. Through the years, the building fell into disrepair, its windows darkened and graffiti-covered as retail tenants came and went. In recent years, the Wilson stop earned the label as the city’s “crustiest” station.

But that all changed with $203 million rebuild of the Wilson stop, which included installing elevators and demolishing 13 old track support columns. The Gerber rehab included restoring the terra cotta facing, and a “faithful” recreation of the building’s clock tower and parapet over the main entrance, which had been removed in the 1950s.

The Gerber Building across the street from the newly-reopened Uptown station at Wilson and Broadway is shown in 2011. Work continues on this building. | Sun-Times file photo

A new Uptown station at Wilson and Broadway opened last year, and the historic Gerber building, which was rehabbed as part of the work, is about to get a new tenant. Here it is, shown before restoration. | Sun-Times file photo

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