News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago


53rd Street businesses offer specials for this weekend’s music festival

As fans of the Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Music Festival prepare to enjoy this year’s event, several businesses along 53rd Street are preparing specials to make the weekend more enjoyable.

Ice cream and candy retailer Kilwins plans to give away 1,000 single scoops of Hyde Park Mud ice cream and free fudge samples to the first 500 customers on each festival day, Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21.

“This is our way of celebrating Hyde Park and welcoming the community to our store,” said Kilwin’s Hyde Park owner Jackie Jackson.

Other local restaurants offering discounts and specials include Boston Market, Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen, and Chant. Here is a sampling of the deals:  

Boston Market: Buy any meal with a soft drink and get your second meal free.

Cedars Mediterranean Kitchen: 10% off when you mention the Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Music Festival

Chant: Multiple menu specials and $7 mixed drinks; the David Kinney Band will play from 9 p.m. - midnight

Nathan’s Famous: Jerk Chicken with rice and beans and a side of plantain’s for $5.50

PePe’s: 5 Beef or Chicken Tacos for $7.99; 5 Steak Tacos for $8.99; 2 Beef or Chicken Tacos with fries for $4.35; 3 Beef or Chicken Tacos with fries for $6.05

Pockets: Caesar Salad for $5.00; Frozen Yogurt with three toppings for $3.49

Non-food businesses will offer enticements too. Hyde Park Bank plans to display a brand new Mini Cooper S Convertible and offer a chance to win a 2-year lease on the car as part of an ongoing promotion.

There will also be plenty of other arts and entertainment to go along with the retail specials and on-stage musical performances. Festival attendees can watch local artists create a mural and try their hand at winning an array of prizes from carnival games.



The Family Stone to Headline 2013 Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Music Festival, July 20 and 21

The Family Stone, whose hits include 1960s' and '70s' tunes “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” will headline the 2013 Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Music Festival, a yearly event filled with music, food, and fun on 53rd Street.

The fourth annual music festival will be held on Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21, and will welcome both first-time and returning attractions.

“The Summer Music Festival has come to be known for its celebration of iconic music and performers as well as its celebration of the rich culture of the South Side of Chicago,” said Wendy Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, which organizes the festival on behalf of the Hyde Park Vitality Committee. “This year, we again look forward to bringing music lovers in Hyde Park a great mix of performers whose styles include soul, funk, reggae, and R&B.”

Saturday’s lineup will feature Chicago’s very own Funkadesi, known for its diverse band members and award-winning musical performances, along with Rockin' Johnny Blues Band. On Sunday, the Chicago Cats and Terisa Griffin will return to the stage before The Family Stone's evening concert.

Great music is not all this festival will offer—plenty of delicious food and an assortment of merchandise from local vendors will be available.

“Past festivals have brought tens of thousands of people to Hyde Park’s main commercial corridor, and this year’s attendees will find that the neighborhood has even more to offer, with several new businesses now open or coming soon on the street,” said Wallace Goode, executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

Since 2011, more than 20 new businesses have opened or announced plans to open on 53rd Street. Read more about places to taste, shop, and play on 53rd Street.

The festival will be held on 53rd Street between Harper and Kimbark Avenues, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is open to the public, with a $5 requested donation. A limited amount of VIP seating is available at Saturday and Sunday evening concerts for $50 per seat. To reserve a spot online visit

The Celebrate Hyde Park series is sponsored by the Hyde Park Vitality Committee, a partnership between the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and the South East Chicago Commission, with additional support from the Chicago Park District-Nichols Park. 

For more information, visit or text CHP to 72727 for festival update.

Celebrate the 4th on 53rd

The Nichols Park Advisory Council, South East Chicago Commission, and Chicago Park District are inviting members of the Hyde Park-Kenwood community to attend the annual 4th on 53rd Street parade and picnic.

The parade will assemble at 10:30 a.m., at 54th Street and Old Lake Park, with festivities going until 3 p.m. For more information, view the flyer below.

A look inside the new hotel

Construction crews at the Hyatt Place hotel site are working toward a fall opening, and a model room already has been completed.

The model room on the second floor of the six-story hotel includes two queen beds; the 131-room Hyatt Place will also include king beds, “boardroom suites,” and wheelchair-accessible guestrooms. Each room will include a 42-inch flat panel HDTV, a small refrigerator, and single-serve coffee maker.

The hotel under construction at 5225 S. Harper Avenue will feature free wi-fi throughout, a 24-hour fitness center, an indoor pool, and meeting space and packages.

Maurese Nelson, the hotel’s sales director, said the hotel has been taking reservations over the phone (773-752-5300) and “there are over 200 confirmed room nights on the books.”

The Hyatt Place is part of the Harper Court development and sits just east of the Harper Court office tower and is across the street from Harper Theater.

Vue53 passes city process

The Chicago City Council today voted to approve Mesa Development’s proposed project to redevelop the site at 1330 E. 53rd Street.

The project, called Vue53, would replace a Mobil gas station and car wash on the site with a building that would include 267 upscale rental apartments, up to six new retailers, and 230 parking spaces. It is also expected to create 300 new construction jobs and $7.7 million in additional tax revenues, while requiring no taxpayer dollars or public subsidy to build.

The City Council vote on the planned development follows a June 3 decision by the Chicago Zoning Committee to approve a zoning change for the site and the project’s May 16 approval by the Chicago Plan Commission. The City Council decision will become effective after it is read into the minutes at next month’s council meeting.

“We are pleased that Vue53 has taken another step toward becoming a reality, thanks largely to the many community members who support the project,” said James Hanson, a principal with Mesa Development. “We look forward to delivering a world-class, transit-oriented, mixed-use development to Hyde Park.”

CorePower Yoga opens today with free yoga

CorePower Yoga’s new Hyde Park studio opens for business today and is offering one free week of unlimited yoga to all new students.

The yoga studio is located at 1539 E. 53rd Street, on the second floor of the building, above the Akira boutique. CorePower will offer three different kinds of yoga classes as well as all the accessories needed to practice the art. For more information, including class schedules, pricing and the one-free-week coupon, visit the CorePower Yoga website.

Vue53 passes Plan Commission, headed to Zoning Committee

At its May 16 meeting, the Chicago Plan Commission approved Mesa Development’s project to redevelop 1330 E. 53rd Street—bringing the 13-story mixed-use building a step closer to reality. Mesa will next need to present the project to the city of Chicago’s Zoning Committee in early June.

The project, called Vue53, would include 267 rental apartments, up to six ground-floor retailers, and 230 indoor parking spaces. It would replace the Mobil gas station and car wash currently on the site. James Hanson, a principal for Chicago-based Mesa, said the firm has been able to build broad support for the project by including community benefits such as affordable housing, jobs for local residents, and additional revenues for the community while requiring no public tax dollars to build.

All but one member of the Plan Commission voted in favor of the Vue53 proposal, and more people turned out to support the project than to oppose it. Read the Hyde Park Herald’s account of the Plan Commission meeting.

Revitalized 53rd Street energizes community

The University of Chicago says redevelopment efforts “are making 53rd Street a more lively retail district” and that residents and businesses are benefitting from Hyde Park’s growth as a destination for dining, shopping and fun. Laura Milani Alessio writes:

The redevelopment of Harper Theater and nearby storefronts is part of the University of Chicago’s effort to partner with local businesses, residents, and elected officials to spur economic development along 53rd Street, a vital commercial corridor for Hyde Park. Chicago businesses increasingly see 53rd Street as a prime opportunity for growth, creating a sense of momentum that is drawing new ventures and customers to the area. The developments are creating new entertainment, dining, and retail options for the entire community—along with an estimated 1,320 new jobs—while building on the neighborhood’s appeal for UChicago students and faculty.

Read the full story and view new photos of 53rd Street here.

Friends Bryant Mclemore-Smith (left) and Makali Robinson (holding his daughter Nila) chat with Robinson's mother-in-law Patricia Jordan at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue in Hyde Park. (Photo by Rob Kozloff)

Mesa presents revised plan to TIF Advisory Council

Mesa Development, LLC, the Chicago-based firm that is leading redevelopment of the site at 1330 E. 53rd Street, presented revised plans for its Vue53 project at last night’s 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council meeting at Kenwood Academy. Vue53 would replace a Mobil gas station and car wash currently on the site.

Mesa first presented plans for a mixed-use building with upscale rental housing and ground-floor retail at the TIF Council meeting in January this year. James Hanson, a principal with Mesa, said the firm adjusted its plans based on community feedback from that meeting and other discussions with local organizations and individual community members.

Among the changes made to the project, Mesa said it increased the amount of affordable housing that would be available, reduced the building height from 14 to 13 floors, added residential units on the second and third floors to screen parking, increased the number of parking spaces from 218 to 230, and moved the building’s loading dock away from Kenwood Avenue to reduce impact on residences on that street.

Hanson noted that Mesa engaged an independent third-party traffic consultancy, KLOA, to determine the impact the project would have on traffic and parking in the area. KLOA projected the impact would be minimal. Because the traffic study was conducted before Mesa increased the parking spaces from 218 to 230, Hanson explained that the ratio of parking spaces to rental units in the building would be even higher than referenced in the report. Read the traffic and parking study here.

Mesa also distributed a set of Frequently Asked Questions to address some of the most common questions the firm has heard from members of the community. For more information, view the FAQs and Mesa’s full presentation.

Note: To clarify points made at the TIF meeting, Mesa Development revised questions 8 and 14 in the Frequently Asked Questions.

Mesa shares name and benefits of proposed project

Late last week, posters in the windows of some 53rd Street businesses revealed the name of the proposed project that would replace the Mobil gas station and car wash at 1330 E. 53rd Street: Vue53.

The posters, from Mesa Development, LLC, the firm leading redevelopment of the site, also touted the project’s expected benefits to the community, including 300 new construction jobs, new affordable housing in the neighborhood, new retail options, and an estimated $7.7 million in additional revenue to the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing district. Some local residents also began receiving postcards in the mail with similar details, asking for support of economic growth in Hyde Park.

For more information, download a copy of the poster and postcard.

Akira gets new sign

53rd Street patrons may have observed a small but notable change in the retail corridor this past week: Akira’s new sign. Die-hard fans of the Chicago-based fashion boutique know the simple but sleek bold lettering that is the store’s trademark. Akira opened last November at 1539 E. 53rd Street, and the sign was installed on the east wall of the building last week.

On the south end of the building, work continues on the space that will house the new Promontory restaurant and concert venue, which are set to open in the coming months. A CorePower Yoga studio also will open in the space above Akira this year.

Multiple impacts of redevelopment

Did you know that ongoing redevelopment efforts on 53rd Street are creating an estimated 1,320 new jobs? Or that the new apartment building proposed by Mesa Development would add about $7.7 million in additional increment to the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing district – while using no public tax dollars to build?

You can read more about these positive economic impacts – and many of the new and existing businesses that are making Hyde Park and 53rd Street a growing destination for shopping and dining – in two flyers recently distributed by supporters of redevelopment. Download them here:

KAM congregation extends spring gala to 53rd Street

If you’re looking for a way to enjoy a “night on the town” in Hyde Park, you could certainly find it next Saturday, April 27. It is set to be an evening to look back on history and look forward to things to come. 

New and upcoming offerings on 53rd Street will be on display as Harper Theater holds a private showing of 42, the new film detailing Jackie Robinson’s story as the integrator of American baseball, and chef Matthias Merges (of Charlie Trotter’s fame) previews the fare of his new bistro restaurant coming to Hyde Park. Merges is set to open the yet-to-be-named restaurant, along with Yusho Hyde Park, as part of redevelopment on 53rd Street.

Adding to the excitement, Jonathan Eig, the New York Times best-selling author of Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season, will discuss baseball in the early 20th century.

The evening’s line-up has been put together as part of KAM Isaiah Israel’s Spring Gala fundraiser. KAM is the oldest Jewish congregation in the Midwest and a longtime presence in Hyde Park. Tickets start at $125 per person and the event starts at 6 p.m. For more information visit the event’s website here.

Results of Community Survey

In mid-January, the South East Chicago Commission, with support from the University of Chicago, surveyed residents of Hyde Park and Kenwood about their views on 53rd Street redevelopment. The survey, which was conducted by phone, was intended to include the voices of more community members in the conversations about redevelopment that have taken place largely in community meetings and visioning workshops since late 2007.

To read a summary of the survey findings from Anzalone Liszt Research, which conducted the survey, download it here.

Now Playing at Harper Theater: 53rd Street

The Harper Theater recently added a new trailer to its lineup of preview clips: a promo inviting moviegoers to explore 53rd Street.

The 77-second video highlights retail, dining, and entertainment options—including newcomers such as Akira, Clarke’s and Kilwins, as well as longtime 53rd Street businesses such as Mellow Yellow, Chant, and Freehling Pots and Pans. The clip also previews CorePower Yoga, Hyatt Place hotel, and new restaurants by award-winning chef Matthias Merges, which are expected to open later this year.