New 80th Avenue Metra station dedicated in Tinley Park
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org November 26, 2012 12:51PM
Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki (left), the Rev. Jay Finno (center) with St. Stephen Deacon & Martyr, and Trustee David Seaman (right), gather for the dedication of the 80th Avenue Metra Station in Tinley Park. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 28, 2012 6:15AM
The new Metra station at 80th Avenue in Tinley Park would fit nicely into a larger transit-oriented development that could include homes on the site of the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center, officials said Monday.
Metra Chairman Brad O’Halloran joined other officials at Monday’s dedication of the new station, saying a transit-oriented development would be a good fit with the new station, which he called “an attractive gateway to the community” and “The Taj Mahal of the system.”
“Stations can be destinations as well as departure points. What an impression it will give new riders who are here for the first time,” he said.
“This station and the one down the tracks (at Oak Park Avenue) are the most beautiful and welcoming stations in all of Metra,” O’Halloran said.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki said he expects the station to win architectural design awards and become a destination point for residents. He envisions renting out the facility for parties, as is done at the Oak Park Avenue Metra Station.
The 80th Avenue station is the busiest on the Rock Island Line and the fourth busiest Metra station, O’Halloran said.
The station opened in March, but the dedication was delayed until a pedestrian underpass was completed. It covers 5,400 square feet and cost $11 million. Funding came from federal grants, Metra and the village.
The new station has a grand hall with a 25-foot-tall ceiling, a fireplace that was roaring Monday morning, indoor and outdoor seating and a space for food and beverage service, which Diana’s Kitchen is now providing on a temporary basis.
It’s a big improvement, Zabrocki said, over the old station that was built in the late 1970s.
He dug out a 34-year-old snapshot depicting an aerial view of the old station, “when there was nothing else out here.”
“I remember sitting out here as a (village) trustee in 1977-78, saying, ‘My God, what did we build here.’ We had to move a cemetery to build the parking lot (to the north),” he said.
The only thing that looked familiar in the photo was the tall, white water tower that still stands northwest of the station.
Zabrocki noted that the public library, police station, fire department training tower, public works headquarters and athletic fields are now south of the station, with residential neighborhoods to the north and west, and two industrial parks south of nearby 183rd Street.
More development may be on the way.
“Most importantly, more than anything else, is this area behind, the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center,” Zabrocki told about 50 people at the ceremony, “roughly 280 acres of land which will be developed once the economy comes around.
“It’s the perfect area for a transit-oriented development,” Zabrocki said.
He hopes to one day see condos, townhomes and possibly single-family homes on the old mental health center property, which would be a short walk to the train station.
“That’s the way we think things are going. You eliminate the need for a second car. It could be good for empty nesters or newly married folks. A lot of communities are going this way,” he said, nothing that Tinley Park is working with a developer for housing near the Oak Park Avenue station, and Orland Park’s project is well underway near its station on 143rd Street.
Finding developers, however, is another matter.
“Back in 2004 or 2005, when the state was talking about selling that land, I had 75 letters of inquiry from developers across the country. Now, when the state closed it down this year, I’ve had zero letters of inquiry. Nobody wants to jump in until things turn around,” Zabrocki said.
Metra enjoyed working with Tinley Park on the station, said O’Halloran, of Orland Park.
“We love Tinley Park. It’s a community that clearly values our service and understands the role public transportation plays in the economic well-being of a community,” he said. “Orland Park has created a transit-oriented development, and the station almost becomes the focal point.”
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) joked that he’s concerned that “everywhere I go in my district, they’re going to say ‘We want money for a station just as nice as what they have in Tinley Park.’”