Residents of Lakeview, Chicago townhouses worry about Metra train tracks, new wall’s impact on safety and property value


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CHICAGO (CHI) — Some people buy homes for their skyline views or outdoor space, but what if everything was replaced by one big wall?

Metra plans to build a wall along several townhouses. It could be 9 to 13 feet tall. The giant wall would be right outside their doors and the Metra tracks would be even closer to their homes. All this worries the locals.

“It’s close. It’s too close for comfort,” said Craig Gunderson. She and her neighbors dreaded the plan for a Metra wall, built on the railroad property line, just feet from their patio doors.

“We won’t have any more vegetation. We have a lot of trees, the trees will be gone and just replaced by what looks like a prison wall,” Christie Calmeyn said.

The wall would clash with dozens of Lakeview townhouses, many of which are located in the Picardy Place housing estate, where these residents live. Craig Gunderson has made renderings of what he thinks the whole thing might look like.

“They said it would start one foot outside the property, our property line,” Gunderson said.

Behind the wall, the Metra tracks will be 20 feet closer to their homes. The current fence between the two would be removed.

“Where we’re actually sitting is where they’re proposing to move the track. So you and I couldn’t have this conversation with their train coming right in the middle of the backyard. We wouldn’t wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the outdoor space. I love gardening, I love birds, nature. Everything would be pretty much wiped out,” Sarah Jackson said.

It’s all part of an infrastructure improvement project to replace several bridges along Metra routes that are more than 120 years old.

“There are, unfortunately, houses that have been built very close to the property line over the last few decades. And those houses right now, they have a little yard and then a slope that goes up to the lanes. And that slope has kind of been part of their backyard this whole time,” Metra spokesman Michael Gillis told I-Team.

He said the track movement and the wall are all being built on railroad property, which residents have been allowed to use as their own outdoor space. Currently, a fence sits between the outdoor area and the pathways.

“It’s their property, like I have no legal basis to stand on to tell them they shouldn’t come here and destroy all of this. But they should be good neighbors about it,” said Gunderson.

Residents are also concerned about property values. Most importantly, they worry about safety if the top of the wall gets too close to second-story patio decks.

ABC7 asked Gillis what Metra has to say to residents who are worried about their safety and livelihoods.

“We chose this option because it’s the best for the region. It’s the best for the federal, state and local taxpayers who fund us. It’s better for our riders, it allows us to keep two tracks open. We looked at other options which we looked at various other options including one suggested by some community members that we actually tried to build the first new track on the east side of the existing one. there just isn’t enough space on this east side,” Gillis told the I-Team.

Calmeyn is disappointed.

“There’s a better way to think about this whole community. Think about being a good neighbor,” Calmeyn said.

Metra said the final design and exact height of the wall are still under review, adding that there may be ways to beatify the retaining wall for residents. Construction could start next year unless the current plan changes.

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Written by Natalia Chi

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