Reopen long-shuttered Green Line L station in Englewood

Public transit investment is either an important factor in rebuilding disinvested communities — that’s part of the justification for the planned $3.6 billion Red Line extension — or it isn’t.

SHARE Reopen long-shuttered Green Line L station in Englewood
Reopening the long-shuttered Racine station on the CTA’s Green Line is an expensive proposition, according to the transit agency — requiring, among other things, an entirely new platform.

Englewood residents and activists want the CTA to reopen the 63rd and Racine Avenue Green Line station.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Englewood residents and community organizers have been pushing for years to get the 63rd Street and Racine Avenue Green Line station reopened — and it’s easy to see why.

The station was once a convenient midway point between the line’s Ashland Avenue and Halsted Street stops, which are a mile apart. But the Racine station was shuttered in 1994 as part of the massive Green Line rebuild.

But now, residents and organizers are circulating a petition aimed at gathering enough signatures to make the station’s reopening a non-binding referendum question on the Feb. 28 municipal elections ballot.

The required 1,600 signatures were due Monday.

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The effort isn’t getting any support from the CTA, though. The agency cites declining ridership at the station 30 years ago and a $100 million price tag to reopen and modernize the stop.

But public transit investment is either an important factor in rebuilding disinvested communities — that’s part of the justification for the planned $3.6 billion Red Line extension — or it isn’t. The CTA can’t have it both ways.

Rather than just dismiss reopening the stop, the CTA should instead work with the city’s Planning Department to figure out a redevelopment plan for Racine Avenue that factors in the reopened station.

Racine stop ‘contributed to the economy’

The Racine stop opened in 1907, with its Greek Revival entrance — which is still there — leading to elevated tracks.

Under the current grassroots effort to reopen the stop, called “Green Light the Green Line,” the renewed station would again fulfill the role it played in better days as a neighborhood hub.

“You know, a lot of communities get their L stops reopened,” Englewood resident Evangeline Fraise told the Sun-Times last week. “They spend millions rehabbing other L stations, and yet ours was ignored until now. It’s heartbreaking to me, because a lot of people that wanted to see this happen have aged out or died or moved on.”

Fraise, 62, who grew up two blocks from the stop, said the station, during its heyday, had a concession stand that sold snacks, comic books and other items.

She said the station was part of an economic ecosystem nearby that included grocers, a record store and other shops.

“While it was open, it actually contributed to the economy,” Fraise said. “It kind of held the neighborhood up.”

Englewood had been in a population and economic free-fall for at least 20 years before the station closed.

But things are a bit different now as the city is now making — and promising to make — major investments in Englewood.

For instance, a few blocks east of the Racine station at 63rd and Green streets, the city is turning a landmark fire station into a $10.3 million “eco-food hub” that will act as an incubator for food-related businesses.

And the vacant lots in Englewood around the station hold the promise of being redeveloped under the city’s Come Home Chicago program, announced earlier this month. The effort is aimed at repopulating the South and West sides by building new residential units on city-owned vacant land.

Station deserves a new look

If passed by 16th Ward voters, the non-binding referendum would not require the CTA to reopen the station. But we hope the numbers are sufficient to push the CTA to think hard about the idea.

Asiaha Butler, executive director of R.A.G.E., the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, said the CTA told her group it was open to the notion of reopening the station but has no money for it in the current budget.

“It was more so, ‘OK, we will consider that,’ and also, ‘Where’s the funding gonna come from?’” Butler said. “I wouldn’t say that we felt like they’re for sure backing us up. I think that’s what’s making us do the petition and the referendum.”

But there will be other budgets and opportunities to seek federal funding in the future. And with all the development and changes now being planned for Englewood, reopening the Racine stop should be a priority.

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