Kadner: Tinley Park 80th Avenue Metra train station is a ‘Wow!’
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org November 30, 2012 4:48PM
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said he was opposed to possible filming at the village's 80th Avenue Metra station for the MTV show "16 and Pregnant." | File Photo
Updated: January 3, 2013 6:27AM
Simply first class. That’s my reaction to Tinley Park’s new 80th Avenue Metra station.
Actually, my precise response was “Wow.”
This is a monumental building the likes of which you rarely see in the southern suburbs.
The pathway leading from the parking lot to the south entrance is a tribute to veterans. Bricks along the walk honor individuals, and on each side of the path are granite monuments representing each branch of the military.
But it’s the quality of the architecture and materials that compose the 5,400-square-foot station that is most impressive.
From the slate roof and 50-foot-high clock tower, to the Mancato brick (that looks like limestone but is more colorful) to the copper gutters and copper flashings.
There’s even copper rooftop trim.
“‘Quality’ was the one word the village officials repeated over and over again,” said Tony Brooke, a Steger resident who served as construction superintendent on the project.
“I’ve been doing this for years and never built anything as nice.
“I think it’s gorgeous. But I’m biased.”
The station cost $13 million (including landscaping and initial engineering and architectural consulting fees and plans).
Metra will eventually spend more than $6 million on the project, including labor for the platform work.
The federal government contributed $1.2 million.
The village is paying for the rest of the project out of various municipal funds (parking, water, sewer, building and streets).
“But taxes were not raised,” village manager Scott Niehaus said. “No one is paying a penny more in sales or property taxes.”
In my opinion, the final work product passes the Malak Test in every way.
Larry Malak is my longtime friend, and many years ago I took him to see the recently completed George Dunne National Golf Course, which the Cook County Forest Preserve District built at considerable cost.
Larry is not a golfer. In the past he had been vocal in his criticism of government spending.
And here government money was not just being spent on jut a golf course, but a course created to be one of the top 100 public courses in the country.
“I think it’s great,” Larry said as we walked the site.
He explained that what bothers him is when the government spends money on something that is second rate, or worse.
“I’m not a golfer, but I can see this is really nice. It’s something people can be proud of. People who play golf will really enjoy,” he said.
“I can see where the money was spent. I just want to feel that in the end my tax money wasn’t wasted.”
The 80th Avenue Metra station in Tinley Park serves thousands of riders each day, but Tinley Park officials were thinking much bigger than simply serving the needs of commuters.
“This is something that could stand for 100 years and be a symbol of what this village represents,” Mayor Ed Zabrocki said. “It’s really a companion building to the train station at Oak Park Avenue and we wanted to make a statement about where the community has come from and where it’s going to be in the future.”
The train station is surrounded by a large plaza. There’s an underground pedestrian tunnel to the north parking lot surrounded by layered landscaping that will one day feature gardens.
I have never been in England, but had a feeling this is what a railroad station might look like in that country.
Architect Ted Haug, who designed the building, confirmed my suspicions.
“It is called a Richardsonian Romanesque style, and H.H. Richardson was known, among other things, for designing train stations in England during the late 1800s,” Haug said.
The spacious interior features a large Tiffany-style chandelier in the main entrance, a 25-foot-high ceiling made of Douglas Fir wood supported by a network of wooden trusses, and a stone standalone fireplace with two exhaust pipes made of copper (one is for show, the other actually works, I was told).
“The main thing we wanted to include, that was an oversight in the Oak Park station, is a full kitchen,” Zabrocki said.
The goal is to have community gatherings in the station, as well as provide food and drink to commuters in a cafeteria.
For years, Tinley Park has had an unofficial policy of allowing motorists to park their cars for free in train station lots at nights and weekends, and next week the village plans to codify that policy.
“After 10:30 in the morning parking will be free,” Niehaus said.
“We were forced to raise parking fees to $1.50 and many people think that was done to support the new station, but that has nothing at all to do with that. In fact, we are not allowed by law to use the parking to support the station.
“The parking fees are used to maintain the parking lots, remove the snow and repave or repair them when necessary.”
For decades people in the south suburbs have looked with awe and some envy at the amenities offered by west and northwest suburban municipalities.
I have heard people wonder aloud, “Why can’t we have something like that in the south suburbs?”
Well, this is exactly the sort of big-thinking, first-class project that the area has long lacked.
It is not a short-term project built on a shoestring budget that attempts to duplicate something grand.
It’s the real deal.
And it’s not just the train station itself, but the three separate warming houses spread out across the platforms. Obviously, someone gave serious thought to the comfort of commuters.
Too often south suburban leaders have thought small, or cheap, or adopted a defeatist attitude of “we can’t do that kind of thing here.”
Tinley Park’s 80th Avenue commuter station is an example of what can and should be done more often.
It’s a thing of beauty. And there aren’t enough of those in these parts.