Metra renovation design east ramp 2020
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Metra train station redesign approved by Homewood Appearance Commission 

An artist’s rendering shows the plans for renovating the tunnel commuters use to get to the boarding platforms at Homewood train station. (Provided image)

Metra’s design for the renovation of the Homewood train station was approved by the Homewood Appearance Commission at its Aug. 6 meeting. 

The commission also approved designs for a new facade at Walmart and signage at the future site of Aspen Dental.

The new building at Ridge Road and Harwood Avenue in Homewood will have a very different look from the current Spanish mission-inspired design of the current building. (Provided image)

Metra’s design for the renovation of the Homewood train station was approved by the Homewood Appearance Commission at its Aug. 6 meeting. 

The commission also approved designs for a new facade at Walmart and signage at the future site of Aspen Dental.

The major renovation of the train station will involve demolishing the structure used by commuters on the east side of the tracks. A new station will be built at the intersection of Ridge Road and Harwood Avenue in downtown Homewood.

The project will also replace the Pace bus lanes adjacent to the station with a terminal configuration. Plans also call for  replacing the station’s elevator with an enclosed ramp intended to improve accessibility. 

The tunnel leading to the boarding platforms will be renovated and sealed in an effort to combat the chronic leaks that plague the current facility.

The project will be done in conjunction with Amtrak’s renovation work on the west side of the tracks. Currently, the boarding platforms are only accessible by stairs from the west side at Park Avenue. Amtrak will add a ramp to provide better access on the west side. 

An artist’s rendering shows the west wall of the enclosed ramp that commuters will use to get to boarding platforms. Appearance Commission members asked the renovation project architect to add “Homewood” in a durable materials to the design of the wall. (Provided image)

Commission chairman Jim Wright said at first he was a little leery of the Metra building design with its glass and strong vertical lines. The current building’s architectural features echo the Spanish mission style of the west side Amtrak station building, which took its cues from the historic Ravisloe Country Club club house nearby.

During the meeting, Ken Korab, an architect with Muller2, and Richard Rounds, project manager, gave a presentation and answered questions about the plans.

Korab explained that the design was inspired by elements of several downtown buildings, including village hall at 2020 Chestnut Road and La Banque Hotel at 2034 Ridge Road. 

“At first blush I’m thinking, ‘How in the heck do these buildings relate to what is proposed there?'” Wright said. 

After the presentation, he said the connections were clearer and the design made better sense. “As you think about it, it grows on you,” he said. 

He noted that Homewood’s architecture is fairly eclectic, and that might help such a modern design fit in well. 

“Other than at Ridge and Dixie we don’t really have a defined architectural style,” he said.

The downtown area is also due for another new development, a four-story building to replace the Triumph Building at the southwest corner of Ridge Road and Martin Avenue. That project will add another modern look with nods to existing architectural features, and Wright said that addition might also help make the train station design fit well. 

That project has been slowed by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, but developers still plan to proceed, according to village officials.

Members of the commission made one change request for the Metra station design. The enclosed ramp will have an exterior wall facing the tracks. In the drawings, it appears as a blank expanse. 

Commission members suggested the design include the word “Homewood” on the wall in some durable fashion so rail passengers would know where they are if Homewood is not their stop.

“They were receptive to that idea,” Wright said.

Mayor Richard Hofeld said technically Metra was not required to get the village’s approval for its plans. He said the presentation was a courtesy to the village and indicated the strong relationship village staff members have developed with the entities responsible for the project, including CN Railway and ComEd, in addition to Metra and Amtrak.

He noted that Village Manager Jim Marino, Assistant Village Manager Napoleon Haney, Public Works Director John Schaefer and Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros have been the key members of the team that has guided the project through its development.

Walmart facelift
The appearance commission voted to approve the design of a new facade Walmart plans to add to its Homewood store at 17550 S. Halsted St.

According to the application document, the change will mainly be color. The current brown and tan shades will be replaced with blue, gray and charcoal colors. 

The signage on the store building will not change.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the facade changes.

Aspen Dental granted variance
Aspen Dental will be moving into 17727 S. Halsted St., an outbuilding formerly the home of Mattress Firm. The unit is currently unoccupied. 

The company asked the commission for a variance on the total sign area. Based on village ordinance specifications, the company would be allowed 167 square feet of signage. The request was for 288.14 square feet.

In a memo to the commission, village staff noted that the previous tenant had received a sign variance that exceeded Aspen Dental’s request and that the current request would not alter the character of the area.

The board approved the request with one nay vote. 

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