A 110-year-old embankment wall will come tumbling down later this year as part of a major enhancement to Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) $2.1-billion project to modernize the Red and Purple lines.

At an April event, CTA officials took whacks at the wall, officially marking the start of the removal that represents a significant change to the CTA’s ongoing Red Purple Modernization (RPM) Phase One Project.

Removing the wall will create more than one mile of open space underneath the tracks of the Red and Purple lined in Chicago’s Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. The new community space will be created between West Lawrence and West Ardmore avenues by removing nearly all of the century-old embankment structure and walls.

At the completion of the RPM Phase One Project in 2025, the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods will gain new areas that could be developed into parking and community spaces by removing a physical barrier that has separated the communities for more than 100 years.

“The Red Purple Modernization Project will be transformative for our community,” says Harry Osterman, who represents the city’s 48th Ward. “Activating the space underneath the tracks is an exciting opportunity for our community to add needed parking and community spaces.”

The CTA’s contractor is the Walsh-Fluor Design Build Team, which had looked at keeping the wall but found it was not possible.

“The original plan was to repair the wall in place, but as we went through different methods, it was clear it wasn’t going to be durable,” says David Shier, project executive for the Walsh Group. “It’s 110 years old and would continue to need repair.”

He believes the neighborhood will benefit from the removal of the wall.

“It’s a heavily populated urban area and the space will be appreciated,” he says.

The CTA will hold community meetings to decide how to develop the space following completion of the project.

Walsh-Fluor Design is expected to begin additional wall removal this year and continue through 2024, working simultaneously with the reconstruction of Red and Purple line track structures now underway.

As part of Stage A of the project, CTA has completed construction of the new elevated track bridge and is installing new rail and other components in advance of putting the new tracks into service at the completion of Stage A.

Stage B, which is scheduled to begin later this year, will rebuild the southbound track structures of the Red and Purple lines and build four accessible Red Line stations at Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn and Bryn Mawr.

CTA will provide an updated construction schedule and host town halls to discuss the work and impacts to CTA service this spring.