Skokie is welcoming its new train station with a piece of art. While tasteful, a big question remains: Will train-riders make the walk to downtown Skokie and shop?
, the look of Oakton Street will still feature a new Yellow Line stop, which is set to open sometime around Jan. 1, the village said.
To add some pizzazz, the authorized the purchase of a sculpture from Chicago artist Evan Lewis. The cost of the sculptor will be no more than $35,000, the village said.
"The new CTA station won’t magically transform the local economy overnight, but it will definitely provide a significant impact." Sen. Jeff Schoenberg
Lewis’s work has appeared all over the country since 1984. In this case, he is being asked to produce a 34-foot high kinetic sculpture that will be powered by wind. The stainless steel sculpture will be placed at the northwest intersection of Skokie Boulevard and Searle Parkway.
While the artwork is the appetizer, the meat of the project is the new station set to open adjacent of the Illinois Science + Technology Park.
Will people make the walk?
“The new CTA station will be a catalyst for increased economic activity in that area,” said State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg, who was a major proponent in Springfield for the station and lobbied successfully to get the money that was necessary for the project. “The new CTA station won’t magically transform the local economy overnight, but it will definitely provide a significant impact to the Science + Technology and its tenant companies and the surrounding local businesses where those people will shop.”
Local retailers are hopeful, but caution dots their optimism.
Akmal Qazi, the proprietor of Kabul House on Oakton, believes the station can only help with his restaurant since there will now be more of a chance to get patrons there without having to deal with parking. “It gives our customers an opportunity to get to the area,” he said. “The closest (stop) is the Skokie Swift and you have to take a cab or the bus to get here.”
Bob Katzman, owner of Magazine Memories likes the proposed sculpture but indicates other steps are needed to revitalize downtown Oakton.
"Architecturally it defines the street,” Katzman says of the sculpture. “It is state of the art. It dominates the entrance to downtown.”
Katzman is optimistic the opening of the train station will increase property values, which may lead to someone purchasing the lumberyard and converting it to a multi-use facility to draw visitors, he said.
But the magazine shop owner does not believe there will be more people from the Technology Park patronizing Oakton Street any tme soon.
“It will not help with the people at the technology park,” he said. "We need to find a way to lure them to Oakton Street.”
To put it simply, Paul McGivern, who has owned the Ace Hardware on Oakton for the past 13 years, realizes that not a lot of people are going to take the train and walk a couple of blocks to get to his hardware store.
But he does have some optimism about the station in general.
“We hope it will allow more people to come to downtown Skokie.”