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Opening up the space under the railroad tracks for retail development was one of the bigger ideas offered as planning for transit-oriented development near Main Street in Evanston got underway Thursday evening.

Participants were invited to add sticky-notes with their ideas to a map of the area.

Opening up the space under the railroad tracks for retail development was one of the bigger ideas offered as planning for transit-oriented development near Main Street in Evanston got underway Thursday evening.

At a public meeting at Lincoln School about 40 people brainstormed ideas for near-term and long-range development near the two train stations on Main just west of Chicago Avenue.

As inexpensive near-term ideas there was a lot of talk about more bike racks and better signage to make it easier for visitors to find their way to the train stations.

A file photo of the Main Street Purple Line station.

Big-picture ideas included opening up archways through the berms that the train tracks now rest on that could be used for retail space, an idea Andrew McGonigle, construction coordinator at Northwestern University, said he’d seen done successfully in Europe.

And others suggested using the area around and perhaps over the tracks for new parking structures for the congested neighborhood — to avoid building more parking in residential areas nearby.

Tom Coleman, with the consulting firm Parsons Brinkerhoff, led the meeting. The firm has worked on other projects in Evanston, including planning for a new Yellow Line station.

Making it easier for pedestrians to get from one station to the other has been one advertised goal for the project — but an owner of the Chicago-Main Newsstand suggested that a direct bridge between the two stations could hurt his business — which is on the primary foot path between them now.

Several speakers suggested that St. Paul Park, the grassy strip on either side of the Purple Line station, is under-utilized.

John Szostek, whose Piccolo Theatre occupies the Metra station, suggested the park could become the site of an outdoor cafe. And he also offered the idea of parking old rail cars on the unused third track at the Metra station and using those for small retail shops, something he said has been done in Flossmoor.

Alderman Don Wilson and Melissa Wynne were among the residents at the meeting.

Most of the transit study is being paid for by a grant from the Regional Transportation Authority, with matching funds from the City of Evanston.

Two more public meetings on the project will be held later this year. More information and a survey form are available on the project website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Between the tracks

    Sounds like the park in the sky idea has died.

    I still like the idea of the bike path between the tracks as it would link mass transit with bike transit.  It is also a solution to the challenging problem of routing a bike path through the heart of the city without disrupting street traffic.

     Evanston can become the bike friendly city on the North Shore by linking the Lake Front bike trail in Chicago with the Green Bay Trail further north.  Travelers on this cross town trail would also support businesses along the route.

     

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