Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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New stores may come to CTA Central Station

CTA’s latest initiative could reinvigorate the desolate Central Street El station.

Inside the building, located at 1022 Central Ave., two large, empty retail spaces on either side of the hallway currently give a hollow vibe to the station. But with CTA’s announcement earlier this week that it will revamp retail efforts at various El stations ­- including Central Street – the building could be bustling with more people looking to dine, shop or just browse.

“It’s a great location to tap into, with potential customers from the hospital, from Northwestern and its athletic facilities down the street, and the city’s recreation facilities and fire station located right there,” said Ald. Jane Grover (7th), whose ward includes the station.

More than 60 retail locations and concession stands inside various El stops all over the Chicago area are currently empty, and CTA wants to take advantage of that untapped profit base by improving their efforts to find leasers and buyers.

“For Lease” signs plastered on the windows of the two retail spaces at Central station direct invested vendors to Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate company in Chicago that has been handling CTA’s real estate properties since 2008. In March, the transit agency gave their real estate partners more control of the spaces, and instead of having vendors apply to the CTA for the space, they’re allowing Jones Lang LaSalle to contact and negotiate with potential buyers and leasers directly in order to streamline the process and attract more clients.

The Central Street location hasn’t always been empty. In 2003, for example, the station housed Mandarin Garden restaurant. When the building was first built in 1931, notable transit architect Arthur Gerber included the two large retail spaces in his plans because he anticipated the station to serve large crowds, typically spectators attending sporting events at NU’s athletic facilities.

Grover said she has spoken to residents around the station and has received positive responses about the possibility of new retail.

“It’s a great location for a restaurant,” Grover said of the 1,100-square-foot space. “The Central Street neighbors envision a pizzeria, a burrito place or a Chinese spot.”

Josh Wood, a concierge desk employee at Evanston Hospital, said he would enjoy a restaurant at the station because it would give him a different option for food other than the hospital’s cafeteria.

“I would prefer one of those big food places, like Subway,” the Lincoln Park resident said.

But CTA customer assistant Edward Wilson, who works at the Central stop, envisions something other than a restaurant. He said he would like to see a coffee shop or a newsstand at the station.

“If they put anything else, people are just too on-the-go to make use of it,” Wilson said.On-the-go stores seem to work best for CTA El stops. At the Davis station, 1612 Benson Ave., Dunkin’ Donuts opened in 2005 and has been there since. The store was part of a bigger effort to incorporate Dunkin’ Donuts stores inside CTA stations. Down the Purple Line, at the Linden station, 349 Linden Ave. in Wilmette, a small coffee shop has also found success operating at a CTA station since 2007. John Kurtz, who owns Go Go Joe coffee shop inside the Linden stop, said Linden is a “destination stop,” which is why he has a lot of traffic.

“I’m lucky enough to get students and Cubs fans from the North Shore,” Kurtz said, adding that a lot of residents park at Linden and take the train down to Wrigley Field. “I turn a profit and rent’s fair.”

The Central station will need a lot of renovation before new clients can come in and set up shop. The initiative, however, has had successes so far, one being Maui Wowi Hawaiian, a coffee and smoothie shop, opening at the Belmont Red Line station this spring.

[email protected]

Patrick Svitek contributed in reporting

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New stores may come to CTA Central Station