Red Line construction hits Uptown businesses hard


Santiago Covarrubias

The Wilson Red Line Stop renovation is starting to have a negative impact on local business.

By Metro Reporter

For Joseph Uchima, the owner of Ace Hardware, located at 4654 N. Broadway, the renovation of the Wilson Avenue Red Line stop may be good for the neighborhood in the long run, but the effect on his bottom line is decidedly different.

Since construction began, the store has lost about 40 percent of its business, Uchima said.

Construction barriers on the street and fences put up around local businesses deter customers because of inconveniences like fewer parking spaces and decreased walking traffic Uchima said. “I can say one thing, and [the alderman] can say another,” Uchima said. “But I’m just going to have to live with the construction—that’s what it amounts to.” Gigio’s Pizza, located at 4643 N. Broadway, has experienced a decline in business caused by the work, which has also blocked off portions of the nearby sidewalk, according to Anna Maria Buttitta, assistant to the owner of the restaurant.

Buttitta said the construction barriers in front of the restaurant have created an obstacle for carry-out orders and discourage customers from entering the pizzeria.

“It’s getting hard for people to run in, pick up their food and get out like they used to,” Buttitta said. “That’s dropped a bit as far as sales go.”

She added that pedestrian traffic near the restaurant has decreased as well, but she hopes business will pick back up after construction is completed in 2017.

Tressa Feher, chief of staff for Alderman James Cappleman (46th Ward), said a couple of local businesses have complained about the construction affecting them.

“Businesses have known since 2012 this was going to be happening,” Feher said. “They have signs up that say ‘Open for Business’ and [indicate] where people should walk. The [Chicago Transit Authority] and Uptown United helped pay for those. Honestly, things are going to be blocked off and there’s going to be construction, but once the train station is completed, there’s going to be more people coming to their businesses.”

The Wilson Red Line construction—with a cost of $203 million—will be one of the largest CTA station projects in the agency’s history, according to the CTA website. With contemporary architecture and design updates, the station will provide accessibility to customers with disabilities, service transfer points—a Purple Line express service—safer and more reliable service and improved access entrances at the station.

Jeff Tolman, a media representative for the CTA, said the CTA and Alderman Cappleman are working closely to ensure the Wilson Red Line project is completed as quickly as possible. He said they are mindful of its impact on the local community, and added that the construction will benefit Uptown residents despite local businesses being affected.

“This project is part of our ongoing commitment to modernize and improve the Red Line, which is our busiest rail line,” Tolman said. “The project includes significant track and structural work that will allow for easy and convenient transfers for the Red and Purple lines. It will enhance the street level environment on Broadway and improve CTA operations. As far as the community, we believe it will create an anchor for revitalization and economic development in the Uptown neighborhood.”