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Businesses Concerned About Financial Effect Of Massive Red Line Construction Project To Last Three Years

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A massive Red Line construction project kicks off next year, but the big surprise for riders is that it's expected to leave two stations closed for three years.

The Green Mill has been an Uptown jazz institution for more than a century. Its owner, Dave Jemilo, said its location a block from the Lawrence Red Line stop only boosts business. But in a year or so, the CTA will close the station for renovation until 2023 or longer.

"I didn't know it was going to be three years," he said. "I just figured maybe six months, or a year, or something like that. That wouldn't be so bad, but three years gets a little hairy."

Jemilo and others say they were unaware it would be a three-year station closure. It's part of a $2.1 billion plan to completely overhaul the Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stops on the Red Line. Two temporary stations at Argyle and Bryn Mawr will help ease some commuter headaches, but not all.

"People taking the 'L' from downtown, tourists that take the Red Line, and things like that, they're going to get all mixed up; and if they've got to get off at Wilson and walk, then there may be a freight."

"That's going to be really sad, because this line helps people get back and forth to work. There's day cares around here. People are actually picking up their children," one rider said.

Dinesh Bhagat's convenience store is steps from the Argyle station. He estimates he'll lose about a third of his business when that station temporarily closes.

He says his business will try to survive.

"We have to try," he said.

The potential business hit isn't lost on Ald James Cappelman (46th).

"It's not going to be a piece of cake," he said. "It's going to be difficult. We'll do things to promote these businesses."

His ward already went through the Wilson station overhaul, but that never completely closed. Yet he said that project came with an unexpected upside.

"Crime dropped dramatically during construction," he said. "And now it's dropped dramatically."

A CTA spokesperson said designs for the new stations are still in the works.

But already there are skeptics.

"I don't know if three years is a conservative estimate, or if it's going to be longer than that. So you never know," said another rider.

The project is happening in some neighborhoods, like Uptown, that have struggled to revitalize over the years, but a CTA spokesperson said with the new stations comes a new signal system, new tracks, and a bypass to reduce congestion for Red, Brown, and Purple line trains.

Red Line service is expected to continue throughout the three-year project.

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