On February 9, 2015 Cermak-McCormick Place station became the 146th station in the Chicago Transit Authority system. After a year of operation, we embarked on a post-occupancy analysis of the station and surrounding neighborhood.

(Photo @dbromo)

(Photo @invincesible)

(Photo @taychan)

Situated on the Near South Side, the station is the heart of the growing Motor Row District. Chicago’s Motor Row is considered to be the largest intact early “motor colony” in the United States. Automobile Rows had developed in numerous cities shortly after the turn of the last century, as car companies sought to create districts where the sale and repair of cars could become an easy urban shopping experience.

As the Motor Row district declined, so too did the existing Cermak station. It was decommissioned in 1977 and torn down in 1978. For more than forty years, the Near South Side was without a station stop on the elevated Green line. The construction of Cermak McCormick Place station filled a 2.5 mile gap in CTA service between Roosevelt and 35th/ Bronzeville IIT.

After analyzing 11 months of CTA data, we found the station’s three entrances log roughly 1,100 daily passengers, with monthly averages at about 38,000. The CTA credited the opening of the station as a contributor to a 2015 increase in ridership seen across the network, which peaked at 241 million. Ridership on the south leg of the Green Line rose 11.2%, and the Cermak stop alone pulled in 390,000 station entries.

On opening day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel remarked “Today we cut the ribbon on not just a new station for the Green Line, but on a new economic future for the businesses and residents of the near south side. For Chicago to have a growing 21st century economy, we must have 21st century infrastructure. So this new station is an essential investment in the continued growth of the Near South side. It will encourage more investment and bring more jobs and opportunities for the people who live and work in this growing neighborhood.”

With one of the country’s largest convention centers nearby, the neighborhood surrounding the station has seen resurgence and a series of significant investments, including further development of the city’s new “entertainment district”. 2015 and the beginning of 2016 saw the filing of more than 418 building permits, an indicator to the expected prosperity of the neighborhood. Years prior had less than 200 permits, with total construction value hovering around thirty million. The McCormick Place Convention Center has long sustained the neighborhood with a constant flow of development and improvements. The quasi public/ private entity reported that the 99 events held in 2014 attracted over 2.3 million visitors, the highest since 2008.

Upcoming development includes over 2,300 hotel rooms, 3,500 apartments/ condos, a 10,000 seat arena, and close to 100,000 square feet of new retail space. 2017 anticipates the completion of four projects, including: the McCormick Place Arena, Marriott Marquis hotel, a renovation and modernization of the Historic American Book Company building, and the opening of the Hotel/ Data Center by McHugh Development and Construction. When completed, the new entertainment district is expected to bring in $250 million in additional spending and 2,500 jobs. Much of the increased investment in the area has been correlated to its stronger connectivity to downtown and the continued well-being of the South Loop and Near South Side.

The location of the station, with its sweeping views of the skyline, along with its form that provides a sense of enclosure for the elevated tracks, creates both a literal and metaphorical gateway to the Chicago Loop, and serves as a strong testament to the evolving modernity of Chicago’s mass transit system.