News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

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UChicago seeking a buyer for Harper Court

The University of Chicago has listed the 12-story Harper Court complex for sale and said it plans to lease back all of the office and retail space when it finds a buyer.

Harper Court opened in November 2013, after a multi-year redevelopment project designed to bring new amenities to Hyde Park and create economic opportunities for the surrounding area. The University first announced plans to sell the property shortly after it purchased it from the developer, CJUF III Harper Court LLC, in November.

“This project is the result of many years of planning and input from members of the community about the kinds of retail they wanted to see in the neighborhood, and we are looking for a new owner that will be committed to Harper Court for the long-term,” said James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University.

Harper Court includes 224,000 square feet of office, retail and parking space. As part of a purchase deal, the University would sign a 20-year master lease for the office and retail portion and would continue to work with its leasing agent to identify retail tenants for the remaining spaces in the building. Harper Court is currently 93.6% leased.

The University exercised an option to purchase the project from the developer for $98 million, with the intention of maintaining goals set for the project through its partnership with the city and local community. Harper Court grew out of community visioning workshops held in 2008 that led the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago to contribute land and other resources to redevelop a former shopping center. The University committed to a 20-year lease of the office tower to help attract developers to bid on the project during the height of the global financial crisis, which made financing large real estate projects nearly impossible. Late last year, UChicago relocated about 550 employees to the building.

To date, the University has invested more than $30 million in Harper Court, including acquiring land for redevelopment and building out the office space. It also provided a $21.5 million loan guarantee for construction of the new Hyatt Place hotel, which is adjacent to the office tower and was part of the phase one construction for Harper Court. The Hyatt Place is owned by Smart Hotels and is not up for sale.

Harper Court is part of a larger effort led by the University to redevelop the 53rd Street commercial corridor. The University has made significant investments to renovate a number of other buildings on 53rd Street since 2011, helping to attract 23 new businesses to Hyde Park.

“From the beginning, Harper Court helped boost interest from prospective tenants and is now providing increased foot traffic to support the surrounding businesses,” Hennessy said. “We’re confident that it will be a good investment for the right buyer and continue to be an important center for the community.”

As current owner of the project, the University pays property taxes that contribute to the 53rd Street TIF district. It will continue to contribute to tax revenues as anchor tenant after the building is sold.

Harper Court is listed for sale with commercial real estate firm CBRE Group.

Renovation of Harper Theater Receives Two Preservation Awards

By Katherine Steward

In 2008, a vacant and rundown Harper Theater Building complex was placed on Landmark Illinois’ watch list for endangered buildings. This month, the complex will receive the second of two recent awards for a renovation project that has brought the historic buildings on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper back into use.

The Hyde Park Historical Society recently named the University of Chicago as recipient of the 2014 Marian and Leon Despres Preservation Award for its renovation of the Harper Theater Building complex. The award, which recognizes “outstanding achievements in the preservation of Hyde Park's architectural heritage,” will be given at the Historical Society’s annual dinner on February 22. In October 2013, the renovation project received Landmarks Illinois’ prestigious Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award in the rehabilitation category, which honors work that allows for continued use of a historic site.

The University purchased the buildings in 2002 and, as part of broader redevelopment efforts on 53rd Street, undertook a major renovation in 2008.

“Early on, we recognized the architectural heritage of the property and the historical significance of the buildings as a gathering place for the community, and we wanted to restore that,” said James Hennessy, associate vice president for Commercial Real Estate Operations at the University of Chicago. “We are delighted to receive these awards on behalf of the many individuals and organizations that contributed to re-opening the buildings for community use—from local aldermen and community leaders who supported the effort, to the artisans who completed the renovation work and the tenants who committed to lease space in the buildings.”

Designed by architect Horatio Wilson, the Harper Theater Building opened in 1914. The theater space was a 1,200-seat vaudeville house, which was converted to a movie theater in the 1930s. The movie theater closed in 2002 and the building sat vacant for more than a decade before it was renovated and reopened in January 2013. Renovations on the buildings included restoring the external façade and installing a replica of the theater’s original marquee.

The Harper Theater complex now houses the four-screen Harper Theater, Hyde Park’s only first-run movie theater; A10, an upscale Italian restaurant by chef Matthias Merges; and the Chicago Innovation Exchange, which is under construction and expected to open by the end of the year.

In a press release announcing the statewide Driehaus Award recipients, Landmarks Illinois President Bonnie McDonald noted, “This year’s winners of a Richard H. Driehaus Preservation Award demonstrate that preservation is not only a tool to rejuvenate a vacant building, but a key revitalization strategy for business, government, and community purposes.”

The Hyde Park Historical Society bestows the Marian and Leon Despres Award in honor of the late Chicago alderman and activist Leon Despres and his wife. Leon Despres was a 1927 graduate of the College at the University of Chicago and a 1929 graduate of the Law School.

 

 

UChicago welcomes returning students with First Friday event January 10th

The University of Chicago's Campus and Student Life and the College have organized a new event to welcome students back to Hyde Park after the winter break -- First Friday Night on 53rd Street. UChicago students can present their University IDs for lots of freebies, discounts and fun.

The event will run tomorrow evening, January 10, until midnight.

 

Yusho Hyde Park is moving forward

Chef Matthias Merges, owner of the new Hyde Park restaurant A10, said he is moving forward with plans to open a second restaurant in the neighborhood, the Japanese-inspired Yusho Hyde Park, at 1301 E. 53rd Street.

Merges anticipates a summer 2014 opening for Yusho and said future customers can expect “great hospitality and great cuisine” at the restaurant, a Hyde Park version of his successful Yusho concept in the Avondale neighborhood.

A recent court ruling cleared the way for Yusho Hyde Park to serve alcohol at 1301 E. 53rd Street, which had previously been part of a dry precinct. Last month, a lawsuit challenging a petition signed by local residents to un-dry the precinct was dismissed with prejudice, and the Circuit Court of Cook County deemed the petition valid.

"I’m here for the long haul. I believe in Hyde Park and what it has to offer,” Merges said. The chef added that construction of the restaurant needs to be completed and that he has to obtain a permit and a liquor license from the city of Chicago.

James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate at the University of Chicago, said the University is pleased to be able to bring Yusho Hyde Park to the neighborhood.

“The success of A10 so far, as well as local support of plans for Yusho, shows that the community has an appetite for new dining options, and we look forward to seeing Yusho open soon,” Hennessy said. “Having a second restaurant by Matthias Merges, an award-winning chef, will further complement everything 53rd Street and the Hyde Park neighborhood have to offer.

Merges opened A10 in November at 1462 E. 53rd Street—next door to the Harper Theater, which opened in early 2013, and across the street from the Hyatt Place hotel, which opened in September 2013. A10 is open for lunch and dinner.

Experience 53rd Street Map and Listings

Ads promoting 53rd Street businesses have appeared in the Hyde Park Herald this month -- with a list of dining, entertainment, shopping, and lodging locations in the commercial corridor.

UChicago Letter to the Editor regarding Harper Court

Derek Douglas, Vice President for Civic Engagement at the University of Chicago, submitted the following letter to the editor of the Hyde Park Herald:

 

To the Editor:

In recent days, some discussion has arisen about Harper Court that would benefit from a clearer recollection of the project’s history and the role that tax increment financing played in making it possible.

For years, Hyde Park residents had asked for amenities the market was unwilling to provide. In 2008, at the request of the City of Chicago, the University of Chicago purchased the old Harper Court and agreed to work with the community, leading a public-private partnership that would bring new retail activity and new economic opportunity to the neighborhood. In the face of a global financial crisis that put a halt to projects in Chicago and across the nation, Harper Court moved ahead to a successful opening only through extraordinary efforts from the university, the city, the community and the private developers. Among the university’s contributions were the donation of a property that had cost the university $10 million, the university’s credit rating, and years of time and expertise from staff and outside professionals, worth millions more.

Another critical contribution came through tax increment financing. TIF districts capture additional real estate taxes generated by new development, beyond existing real estate taxes, to catalyze economic development in underserved neighborhoods — exactly what has happened at Harper Court. Through the 53rd Street TIF district, the city invested $2 million to help launch Harper Court. The promise of $17.5 million in new real estate taxes generated by the new development allowed the developer to obtain financing critical to the project. The real estate taxes paid by the university and the retail stores will repay the TIF investment by the city. Without this public-private partnership, the developers would not have had the financing to move forward, and Harper Court never would have been launched.

Last month, the University of Chicago exercised an option to purchase Harper Court, to assure that the development will continue to support a balance of quality national, regional and locally owned businesses, consistent with community values and the vision articulated by neighbors through the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, visioning workshops and other planning processes. Rather than claiming exemption from property taxes, the university committed to pay full market rate real estate taxes through 2024, when the 53rd Street TIF district expires. After that, the expanded tax base will remain, generating new support for schools and city services. In the meantime, Harper Court’s success has catalyzed new businesses nearby that are already providing additional support to schools and city services through their ongoing tax payments.

The university has invested a great deal in Harper Court and 53rd Street to help attract amenities, create jobs and support new business opportunities. As neighbors, we are committed to seeing Hyde Park flourish, now and in the future. But this represents only a small part of our engagement and investment in the community. Take public schooling: the university operates four standout charter school campuses on the city’s South Side serving 1,800 students and provides enrichment programs for more than 900 high school and middle school students. At the same time, more than 400 U. of C. students volunteered with Chicago school students last year, donating more than 35,000 hours last year as teaching assistants and support staff at more than 50 partner sites. UChicago Promise helped 1,100 local high school students apply for college, waived $89,000 in application fees for students from Chicago and committed to replacing more than $2.2 million in loans with grants for Chicago undergraduates who qualify for financial aid. Along with police protection, transportation, medical care, cultural opportunities, job training and much more, this is an important part of our civic engagement mission, and a significant mutual benefit that comes from the partnership between a great urban research university and a great city.

Derek Douglas
Vice President for Civic Engagement
University of Chicago

 

Read the letter in the December 11 issue of the Hyde Park Herald here.

LA Fitness Grand Opening December 14

LA Fitness will celebrate its new location in Hyde Park with a grand opening event on Saturday, December 14, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

The fitness center opened last month on the third floor of Harper Court on 53rd Street. The entrance for LA Fitness is at 5224 S. Lake Park Avenue.

The opening event will include tours of the facility, sample classes, fitness assessments, and activities for children. See the flyer for more information.

Shop ‘Small Business Saturday’ on 53rd Street

Several 53rd Street businesses will host special events today in recognition of Small Business Saturday.

While Black Friday is the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season, Small Business Saturday reminds shoppers that there are great deals to be found at small businesses around the country. American Express started the Saturday observance in 2010, and the South East Chicago Commission is seizing the occasion to promote mid-South Side businesses.

Events in Hyde Park include:

Tea and Cookies at Akira

1539 East 53rd Street, Chicago IL. 

Come celebrate Akira’s 1-year anniversary in Hyde Park!  In the spirit of celebration, Akira will offer buy one, get one half off an entire purchase when customers present an ad or promotional flyer for Small Business Saturday in Hyde Park.  Sexy dresses, denim, jewelry, & handbags from over 200 designer brands and smaller fashion houses line the walls at AKIRA, ensuring that even the most discerning customer won't leave the store empty-handed. Patrons will also receive complimentary tea and cookies at the time of purchase. Shop Akira on Small Business Saturday and enjoy the celebration.

Sip and Shop at Sir and Madame – All Day

1504 East 53rd Street, Chicago IL. 

This will be a social event with sangria and music to enhance the shopping experience. Sir and Madame will feature their winter collection and special discounts to patrons. Sip and Shop will appeal to individuals that appreciate shopping at boutiques and in upscale environments. Individuals will also learn about the Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink, & Buy Local initiative and the take the 365 Pledge to spend $365 in 2014 at a small business.

Wine and Live DJ at Independence – All Day

1506 East 53rd Street, Chicago IL. 

 To celebrate Small Business Day and enhance the shopping experience Independence will have a live DJ and serve complimentary wine while customers shop. Patrons will also receive information about the Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink, & Buy Local 365 Pledge that encourages individuals to spend at least $365 in 2014 at a small business. 

Hyatt Place Small Business Day Happy Hour Jazz Event 5pm – 9pm

5225 South Harper Court Avenue, Chicago IL. 

The Hyatt Place will host a Small Business Day happy hour event with local jazz artist Darwin G. Jackson & Company. Special guest speaker Dwayne Hirsh, Small Business Advocacy Council Board Member and Founder of Business Spotlight Networking will speak about the benefits of shopping local and supporting small businesses. Individuals will also learn about the Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink, & Buy Local initiative and take the 365 Pledge to spend $365 in 2014 at a small business. The Hyatt Place will offer drink specials during happy hour to enrich the evening as we celebrate Small Business Saturday.

Late Night Dancing Chant Restaurant 10pm – 2am

1509 East 53rd Street, Chicago IL. 

Dance the night away at Chant in celebration of Small Business Saturday. Come enjoy “Late Night Dancing” hosted by Rhonda Flower & CoCo.  Party-goers will experience unground reggae, classic hip hop, soul and house music as they dance the night away. During this exciting event individuals will receive information about the Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink, & Buy Local 365 Pledge that encourages people to spend at least $365 in 2014 at a small business. Chant will offer Small Business Saturday drink specials. 

Visit the SECC website for information about Unwrap Chicago and Small Business Saturday events elsewhere on the mid-South Side.

New Fashion Shops in Hyde Park

Black Friday shoppers seeking apparel and fashion accessories need look no farther today than the Hyde Park neighborhood.

Three new fashion boutiques have opened on 53rd Street this fall, adding more shopping options to the growing number of new amenities in Hyde Park. Women’s clothing shop Comfort Me Boutique; urban apparel retailer Sir & Madame, and upscale men’s store Independence all operate temporary or pop-up locations and hope to make their presence in the neighborhood permanent.

“There’s something really cool happening on 53rd street, and we want to be a part of that,” said George Vlagos, owner of the street’s newest pop-up Independence. Vlagos’ other stores, Oak Street Bootmakers and the first Independence, are located on tony Oak Street in downtown Chicago.

Vlagos says his store at 1506 E. 53rd Street features an “Americana aesthetic” and an element of authenticity in everything from the clothing to the décor.

“Everything we have has been made in America and has a history and a story. The lights are 1920’s factory lights from a Chicago manufacturer that we managed to get at auction,” he said in a recent interview, adding that the stores’ clothing represents the same commitment to high quality production. Jeans he was wearing from his store  (his only pair), he says, are “basically indestructible.”

Comfort Me Boutique, at 5241 S. Harper Avenue, also features clothing and products made in America, along with vintage or repurposed furnishings. Bethany Thomas, the main manager of Hyde Park’s newest pop-up, describes the store’s aesthetic and mission as “comfort for the mind, body, and soul” for women in their mid-twenties and up.

Sir & Madame, at 1504 E. 53rd Street, is run by two native Hyde Parkers who brought the retail concept that they've made popular in Ukranian Village home to their original neighborhood.

For Black Friday, Comfort Me is offering the best deals for the earliest shoppers, Sir & Madame has sale prices up to 50% off, and Independence also has attractive sale prices. However, the three pop-ups are not the only places to shop for apparel on 53rd Street. Akira and Villa shoe store are other great new options.

University of Chicago closes on purchase of Harper Court

The University of Chicago has purchased Harper Court, the new 12-story office tower and retail complex at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, from developers Harper Court Partners.

Harper Court officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 8, after a multi-year project designed to create a new hub for consumer amenities and economic opportunities in Hyde Park. The project grew out of community visioning workshops held in 2008, which prompted the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago to contribute land and other resources toward the redevelopment. The University and the city selected Harper Court Partners as the private developers.

The contract with the developer included an option for the University to acquire property that is part of Phase I of the project. The deal, which includes the 150,000-square-foot office tower, more than 75,000 square feet of retail, and two parking garages, as well as rights to land for Phase II, closed Nov. 14. The new Hyatt Place Hotel adjacent to Harper Court is not part of the transaction.

University officials said that by taking ownership at this point, the University can help guide the future of the complex and guarantee that it continues to support a mix of amenities that complement existing businesses in the 53rd Street corridor and reflect the kinds of retail options local residents want. From the project’s beginning, the University has worked with the developer to ensure that Harper Court includes a mix of national, Chicago-based, and locally owned businesses, and that those businesses include South Side residents in their hiring plans. Additionally, more than 28 percent of the qualified project costs were engaged with minority- and women-owned businesses.

James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University, said the University does not intend to own the property permanently, and that it will begin a search for the most appropriate owner for the long-term. The University will pay the same property taxes that any private owner would, contributing money back into the 53rd Street TIF district.

“Harper Court has already had a powerful catalytic effect on the neighborhood, spurring the creation of new jobs and new businesses along the 53rd Street corridor. It will continue to be an important component of broader efforts to make 53rd Street a vibrant neighborhood center, and the University is committed to ensuring that it remains a long-term asset to Hyde Park,” Hennessy said.

 

Ridership of UChicago's 53rd Street Shuttle Rising

In its second week of operation, the new shuttle service between 53rd Street and the University of Chicago campus is starting to gain ridership, according to the University's Transportation & Parking Services. The shuttle, which launched on Nov. 4, is free for UChicago students, faculty, and staff and for staff at University of Chicago Medicine.

Awareness and ridership are expected to increase in the coming weeks as more University staff move into the Harper Court office tower at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. Read about the shuttle service and routes on the University's news site.

Grand Opening of Harper Court Nov. 8

Harper Court Partners, the developers of Harper Court, will host two special events tomorrow to celebrate the grand opening of Harper Court, the 518,000-square-foot mixed-use development at the corner of E. 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park.

At 10 a.m. on November 8, the developer will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Andy Alper as guests. Other participants will include 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns and representatives of the Hyatt Place hotel, along with financier of the project.

At 5:30 p.m., the celebration will resume with a free concert featuring Grammy Award-winning artist Estelle, local DJ Dave Henry, and students from Kenwood Academy High School. The concert is free and open to the public.

In additon to the Hyatt Place, Harper Court anchors include the University of Chicago, which will occupy the 12-story office tower, LA Fitness. Other tenants in the development include Chipotle Mexican Grill, Ulta Cosmetics, Villa, Starbucks, AT&T, Porkchop, Ja'Grill and Red Mango.

Harper Court is a key component of a broader effort to revitalize 53rd Street that has brought several new businesses to Hyde Park since 2011. Harper Court sits across the street from a renovated building that houses Akira, CorePower Yoga, and the soon-to-open Promontory restaurant. To the west of Harper Court is the renovated Harper Theater, which opened earlier this year, and A10, the newest restaurant by award-winning chef Matthias Merges.

 

 

Matthias Merges' A10 restaurant open today

A new fine dining experience has come to 53rd Street. A10, acclaimed chef Matthias Merges' newest restaurant featuring European cuisine, officially opened for business today at 1462 E. 53rd Street.

The opening of the restaurant is part of a larger, ongoing effort to redevelop the 53rd Street commercial corridor and bring more amenities to Hyde Park. A10 is located just south of Harper Theater and across the street from the recently opened Hyatt Place hotel. The restaurant will be open Tuesdays through Sundays.

Read more about the restaurant and see pictures of the inside in this post from the Eater blog: http://chicago.eater.com/archives/2013/11/04/gaze-inside-a10-opening-tom...