The University of Chicago will renovate the interior of the shuttered, 125-year-old Chicago Transit Authority Green Line stationhouse in Washington Park as part of an ongoing effort to establish a major arts and culture corridor, called the Arts Block, along East Garfield Boulevard.
The Chicago Transit Authority announced today that its board approved a contract for the University, through its Lake Park Associates subsidiary, to lease the historic station, following a competitive bidding process. The station, which the CTA said is one of the oldest rapid transit stations in the United States, has been closed since a new station opened across the street in 2001.
The University will invest $219,000 toward renovating the station, which will be re-opened as a welcome center for the Arts Block and for the Washington Park neighborhood. The welcome center is expected to open in 2018 and will include space for community-focused programming, such as an incubator for small, local businesses.
“Leasing the station to expand its use underscores the University’s commitment to supporting vibrant mid-South Side neighborhoods and to finding new ways to engage with local residents and visitors to the South Side,” said Derek R.B. Douglas, vice president for civic engagement and external affairs. “We look forward to engaging the community to consider future uses for the space.”
The University announced in June 2016 that it is working with community partners to develop the Arts Block. In addition to the welcome center, plans include the Green Line Arts Center, which will be an interdisciplinary hub for music, dance, theater and film production, and an outdoor, public green space that will feature an open-air pavilion. Proposed projects on the block are dependent on donor support.
The Arts Block efforts build on the success of the University’s community-focused Arts Incubator and Place Lab, and on retail enterprises along the block, including the Currency Exchange Café and BING Art Books.
Theaster Gates, professor in the Department of Visual Arts and director of Arts + Public Life, who is leading the vision for the Arts Block, said the historic CTA station is well situated as a place to provide way-finding for visitors to the neighborhood and is an important addition to the corridor.
“Arts and culture can transform communities by helping people to visualize new possibilities,” said Gates. “The Garfield Green Line CTA station is a historic cultural asset and physical space that will become a new place for creativity and opportunities for the community.”