News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

A10

Hyde Park businesses give Valentine’s Day couples a reason to celebrate

With Valentine’s Day next Sunday, February 14 – it’s the perfect time to start planning your gifts and celebrations. There will be no lack of romance in Hyde Park with several restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues offering special menus, gifts, and events for couples (and singles!) looking for a memorable holiday and night on the town.

Dining

For couples wanting to celebrate throughout the entire weekend, A10 Hyde Park at 1462 E. 53rd Street, The Promontory at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, Chant at 1509 E. 53rd Street, and Porkchop at 1516 E. Harper Court are all offering special menus and events from Friday, February 12, through Sunday, February 14.

A10 is offering a three-course tasting menu with optional wine pairing, a couple’s bar special, and beverage and brunch specials. The tasting menu is $65 per person with an optional $30 wine pairing and the bar special is $50 per couple with a half bottle of Champagne and choice of snacks. Call 773-288-1010 for reservations.

The Promontory has planned a three-course tasting menu for $45 per person with grilled oysters, strip steak, and chocolate dacquoise dessert. Their special “Cocktail for 2” features fresh strawberries, cream de cacao, vodka, fresh lemon, and sparkling wine for $14. Call 312-801-2100 for reservations.

Chant is featuring a 28-ounce double-cut, heart-shaped rib-eye steak with grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes and Béarnaise sauce, with one complimentary lava cake for $35 per person. After dinner from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m., stay and enjoy music by the Chester McSwain Jazz Band on Friday, February 12; and DJ Night House Music on Saturday, February 13.  Call 773-324-1999 for reservations.

Porkchop has created a special Valentine’s Day menu with your choice of appetizer, soup or salad, entrée, and deep-fried brownie dessert for $33 per person. For any singles dining alone, Porkchop is offering 50% off all regularly priced menu items, not including the Valentine’s Day menu. Call 773-493-9333 for reservations.

Ja’ Grill, at 1510 E. Harper Court, is celebrating all day long on Sunday, with a 50% discount on bottles of wine before 5 p.m. After 5 p.m., couples will receive a free bottle of Champagne or wine with entrée orders. For those dining solo after 5 p.m., Ja’ Grill will treat you to a free glass of Champagne, wine, or beer. Click here for more information.

Gifts

Kilwins, at 5226 S. Harper Avenue, is the perfect destination for all your Valentine’s Day sweets. Stop by for chocolate-dipped strawberries, gift baskets, boxed chocolates, chocolate hearts and truffles, and fudge. Shoppers who spend more than $50 will receive a coupon for a complimentary half-pound of fudge on their next visit with purchase, valid from February 15-29.

NoteworthyNotes, at 5231 S. Harper Court, is offering one free greeting card with any three cards purchased in February, as well as a raffle for a gallon container of delicious cookies valued at $40 – the winner will be selected on February 13. Stop in now to order their many items ready for personalization for a truly unique gift, or for procrastinators, the store will be open on Valentine’s Day from 12-5 p.m.

Entertainment

The new Hyde Park improv comedy club, The Revival, at 1160 E. 55th Street, is presenting “Love Is...” – a night of stand up comedy, games and music. “Couples will laugh and singles will mingle! Join your host, Doc Love, and four of Chicago's best comics for a night to remember!” The performance takes place on Sunday, February 14, at 7 p.m. Tickets $10 or $5 with student ID, and can be ordered by phone at 866-811-4111 or online here. If you’re celebrating on Friday or Saturday, The Revival has shows those nights as well – click here for the full calendar of events.

The Silver Room, at 1506 E. 53rd Street, is hosting SoulSessions, a live music open jam, with "no cover and no covers" on Sunday, February 14, from 7-10 p.m.

Don’t miss the Party Noire Valentine’s Day party at The Promontory on Friday, February 14, from 12-6 p.m. with a $10 cover charge. Tickets for the party are available here.

Hyde Park restaurants A10 and The Promontory participating in 9th annual Chicago Restaurant Week 2016

Just as many of us are getting over holiday treats and meal indulgences, Chicago’s annual Restaurant Week is back to tempt foodies with “…top fare at value pricing at restaurants throughout the city and surrounding suburbs,” according to the Choose Chicago tourism website.

For two weeks (Friday, January 22 to Thursday, February 4), over 350 Chicago restaurants are offering multiple-course, prix-fixe meals at $22 for lunch and $33 or $44 for dinner, with tax and gratuity not included.

Two noted Hyde Park restaurants are participating – A10 Hyde Park at 1462 E. 53rd Street and The Promontory at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue. A10 is offering a special dinner menu and The Promontory is offering lunch as well as dinner menus.

The A10 dinner menu includes a first course of roasted beet salad or roasted Kabocha squash soup, a second course of brown butter parsnip cappelletti or braised venison leg, and a third course of sweet potato “dauphines.”

The Promontory lunch menu includes a first course of house green salad or clam chowder and a second course of a Slagel Farms lamb burger, Slagel Farms turkey roulade sandwich, or hand cut pappardelle. Their dinner menu includes a first course of warm beet salad, Wagyu beef tartare, or celery root agnolotti; a second course of Green Circle Farms chicken, P.E.I. mussels, or roasted squash risotto; and a third course of chocolate and hazelnut pave.

To view the complete list of participating restaurants, click here.

Faces of 53rd Street: Matthias Merges

By Calmetta Coleman and Lilian Huang

After opening two new restaurants in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, Matthias Merges faced a common restaurant industry challenge: securing and keeping high-quality employees.

The award-winning chef could have recruited workers from anywhere in the city for his French-Italian eatery A10 and Japanese-inspired Yusho, including from the original Yusho in the Avondale neighborhood. Instead, he instituted a policy that 70 percent of A10 and Yusho employees must live within walking distance of their workplace or have easy access by bus. While keeping a restaurant employee for 18 months is considered good in the industry, both A10 and Yusho, which opened in 2013 and 2014, respectively, have staff who have been with them since the beginning. Together, the restaurants employ 60 people.

“We could have brought employees from the North Side, but that doesn’t do any good for us or the community,” says Merges, who lives on the North Side. “We’re invested in the community.”

Indeed, while still running three other popular restaurants elsewhere in Chicago and Las Vegas, Merges spends about one-third of his time in Hyde Park and sits on the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. Locals might spot him, sporting his signature beard, at museums and other cultural venues in the neighborhood—or even at other restaurants on 53rd Street.

A few months ago, Merges recalls, a customer came into A10, looked over the menu, and made it known that he did not want any of the dishes listed. What he really wanted, he said, was fried fish. Wired to please his customers, Merges headed across the street to Indian restaurant Rajun Cajun and borrowed a raw red snapper. He fried it up and served it with roasted potatoes and tartar sauce. After the meal, the customer told Merges, “That’s the best piece of fish I’ve ever had.”

One of Merges’ favorite things about 53rd Street is the community of restaurants and how they interact with and support one another. There is, naturally, a good deal of overlap between customers of A10, at 1462 E. 53rd Street, and Yusho, at 1301 E. 53rd, with some patrons frequently dining at both in the same day. The restaurants also welcome referrals from the likes of Rajun Cajun and Pizza Capri and return the favor by recommending neighboring restaurants for their customers who decide to go elsewhere. “The more community you create, the more successful everyone is going to be,” Merges says.

Merges’ definition of success goes beyond the profitability of his restaurants. He also has a mission of serving the community through his work. He partners with the Cook County Jail’s nonviolent felon release program to operate a vegetable garden where inmates cultivate and tend produce for Chicago restaurants. Merges and his employees help the inmates to develop these valuable skills and provide them with information on what it is like working in a restaurant. A number of inmates from the program have gone on to work at Merges’ restaurants. Merges describes his approach to this work in simple terms, “You search for people who never had the opportunity to do good, and give them an opportunity, and they do good.”

The 49-year-old is also one of the founders of Pilot Light, a nonprofit that partners with Chicago schools to educate children about food and nutrition and equip them to make healthy lifestyle choices. Its free curriculum is currently implemented in six schools, including Ray Elementary in Hyde Park and Anna R. Langford Community Academy in Englewood.

Even with five restaurants and nonprofit work on his plate, Merges still makes time for hobbies. He enjoys activities like camping, running, climbing and, of course, spending time with his family. His wife, a Chicago architect, had a hand in designing both of his Hyde Park restaurants, and at home, he teaches his three daughters how to cook. Merges also does photography, including promotional photography for his restaurants.

He is excited about the potential for his 53rd Street restaurants and for the neighborhood in general. “There has been an emergence of 53rd Street that has been great, but has not hit its peak,” he says.

At A10 and Yusho, he continually looks for ways to keep the offerings fresh. Both restaurants frequently offer unique menus for holidays and other special occasions, such as A10’s Sunday brunch menu and its “Tour the Garden” dinner series this past summer, which showcased a different item of produce from the Hyde Park farmer’s market every Wednesday. He also recently hired a new chef for A10.

“Creating a culture is very important for us, and it takes time to do that,” he notes. “We’ve made great strides, but I can’t wait to see the five-year mark!”

...

Faces of 53rd Street is a twice-monthly series that profiles business owners, employees, and shoppers who contribute to the vibrancy of Hyde Park's 53rd Street retail corridor. If you would like to recommend a familiar face on 53rd Street for a profile, write to us at 53rd@lists.uchicago.edu.

53rd Street and Harper Court restaurants offering New Year’s Eve events

Hyde Park will not be lacking in festive celebration options this New Year’s Eve, with special events planned by The Promontory, Porkchop, Ja’ Grill, and A10.

The Promontory, at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, is hosting musical guests Phli Life and Premo with a top shelf open bar from 8:30-11:30 p.m., passed hors d'oeuvres from 9-10 p.m., a complimentary Champagne toast, live entertainment, balloon drop, confetti cannon, well-known Chicago DJs, and other surprises. General admission tickets are $75, and VIP packages for groups of four and eight people are also available. Buy tickets here. For more information about VIP packages please email eldridge@promontorychicago.com.

Porkchop, at 1516 E. Harper Court, is hosting the Motown New Year’s Eve party with an all-star tribute to greats including the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, and more. The ticket price includes passed BBQ appetizers, late night kitchen menu, live music, and midnight whiskey or Champagne toast, as well as an open bar with wine, beer and liquor for all ticketed guests. Buy tickets here.

Ja’ Grill, at 1510 E. Harper Court, is offering a complimentary bottle of Champagne or wine per couple, with entree order. A special guest DJ will be spinning the best of reggae, dance hall, hip-hop, R&B, house, and electronic dance music from 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Click here for more information.

A10 Hyde Park, at 1462 E. 53rd Street, has planned a special three-course dinner for $65 per person with optional wine pairings at an additional charge of $25. First course options include Truffled Lyonnaise Salad with 60 Minute Egg or Burrata with Meyer Lemon, Fennel Cracker, and Caviar; main course options include Seafood Cioppino with Atlantic Cod, Littleneck Clams, and Lobster Sausage or Braised Lamb Goulash with Mustard Dumpling and Dill; and a dessert course with Spiced Black Walnut Cake with Roasted Heirloom Apple or Zabaglione Soft Serve with Cranberry. A pasta course at a supplemental charge of $15 is available, with options including Squid Ink Campanelle with Crab or Truffled Ricotta Pansotti With Brown Butter, Sage, and Shaved Squash. Click here for more information.

Ten Hyde Park restaurants to participate in June 9 Dinner Crawl

The Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce Dinner Crawl takes place on Tuesday, June 9.

The annual event features 10 local restaurants including A10 Hyde Park, Chant, Clarke’s Diner, Ja’ Grill, Kilwins, Mellow Yellow Restaurant, Native Foods, Porkchop, Rajun Cajun, and ZBerry Frozen Yogurt & Treats.

The crawl begins at 5:30 pm. starting from The Silver Room, and continues until 9 p.m.

Tickets are $35 each, or $25 when purchased online by June 8 at www.hydeparkchamberchicago.org/crawl.

53rd Street restaurants offer Mother’s Day specials

Mother’s Day is just around the corner on Sunday, May 10, and several 53rd Street area restaurants are planning special events to help you celebrate your mom – and all the important mothers in your life – in style all day and evening long.

A10, at 1462 E. 53rd Street, will be hosting a Mother’s Day Brunch, for $35 per person and $15 for kids aged 10 and under. Mom will enjoy an assortment of sweets for the table as well as a choice of five different entrees. For reservations, call 773-288-1010.

Chant, at 1509 E. 53rd Street, is offering a Mother’s Day Brunch special with queen cut prime rib for $25, or king cut prime rib for $30. Both entrees are served with Parmesan smashed potatoes and sweet corn succotash, and a complimentary dessert of fresh berry Zabaione. For reservations, call 773-324-1999.

Porkchop, at 1516 E. Harper Court, is offering a “Complimentary Brunch for Mom” from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Diners will receive one complimentary brunch entrée for one mom per table. For reservations, call 773-493-9333.

The Promontory, at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, is starting the day with special additions to its regular brunch menu, including smoked salmon roe deviled eggs, blue crab soufflé, and Basque cake. Singer Tecora Rogers will be performing jazz standards in a 3 p.m. show at the Promontory’s upstairs music venue. The dinner menu features a grilled Maine lobster special, and the evening concert will be Zemrah’s Songs of Love. Drink specials include “Cookies & Cream” with house-made brown butter rum, “Roots & Malt” with house-made root beer, and “Queen for a Day,” which includes a half bottle of Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and 2 for 1 standing room tickets for the 7 p.m. concert. For more information, visit http://promontorychicago.com/mothers-day/.

53rd Street Shops Are Ready for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is on Saturday, February 14, and restaurants and retail stores on 53rd Street are offering a variety of specials and gift options to help couples celebrate in Hyde Park. Here is a list of some of the offerings.

A10, 1466 E. 53rd Street – Three-course special dinner menu for $65/person. For reservations call 773-288-1010.

Anastasia, 1500 E. 53rd Street – Many new designs in stock, with emphasis on unique dresses.

Chant, 1509 E. 53rd Street – Three-course, shared “Lovers Portion” dinner menu for $65/couple with live music from 8-11 p.m. by the Contraband Latin Jazz Band. For reservations call 773-324-1999.

Ja’ Grill, 1510 E. Harper Court – Free bottle of wine or Champagne per couple with the purchase of two dinner entrées. For reservations call 773-752-5375.

Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper Avenue – Chocolate covered strawberries at $28/pound, boxed Valentine’s candy at $23.95 and up, Valentine’s gift baskets at $39.95 and up, and one free ½ pound of fudge when you purchase one pound.

Meadowlark, 1457 E. 53rd Street – Pound jewelry with natural crystals and stones, French silk scarves, handmade scented soaps, and hand-sewn clothing by Edamilla Dry Goods.

Nancy Krause Floral Design & Garden Antiques, 5229 S. Harper Court – Roses, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and fresh lilacs; many flown in for the day. Pre-made arrangements will also be available, ranging from $50-$80. All deliveries must be called in no later than Thursday, Feb. 12 to 773-241-7777.

Porkchop, 1516 E. Harper Court – Three-course dinner menu for $33 as well as cocktail specials. For reservations call 773-493-9333.

The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West – Four-course tasting menu with 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. seatings for $65/person; vegetarian version available. Sommelier-selected wine pairings can be added to each course for $35/person (plus tax and gratuity). Reservations can be made at 312-801-2100 and must be held with a credit card. After dinner, soul legends Norman Connors, Michael Henderson, and Jean Carne will perform upstairs, with show times at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are available online.

Windy City LIVE visits 53rd Street

Windy City LIVE was recently in Hyde Park visiting favorite local businesses, both well-established and new, and the segment airs today, Monday, Feb. 9 at 11 a.m. on ABC-7.

The Windy City LIVE team, with contributor Ji Suk Yi, highlights 53rd Street area merchants including Meadowlark, (1457 E. 53rd St.), Valois,  (1518 E. 53rd St.), A10 (1466 E. 53rd St.), and The Promontory, (5311 S. Lake Park Ave. West). They also stopped by the DuSable Museum of African American History (740 E. 56th Place), 57th Street Books (1301 E. 57th St.), the Woodlawn Tap (1172 E. 55th St.), and Amy’s Candy Bar (1546 E. 55th St.).

If you miss the live show, past episodes can be viewed here.

Celebrate Chicago Restaurant Week in Hyde Park

Sponsored by the Choose Chicago tourism organization, the 8th Annual Chicago Restaurant Week takes place from Jan. 30 – Feb. 12, 2015. Diners will enjoy multi-course specialty prix fixe menus at more than 250 Chicago restaurants, priced at $22 for lunch and $33 and/or $44 for dinner (excluding beverages, tax, and gratuity).

This year, two of the participating restaurants are from Hyde Park – Matthias Merges’ A10, located at 1466 E. 53rd Street and Jovanis Bouargoub’s Porkchop, located at 1516 E. Harper Court. Both restaurateurs were recently profiled in the Chicago Tribune for their contributions to the burgeoning dining scene on the South Side. A10 was also listed as one of dining critic Phil Vettel’s top picks for Restaurant Week.

A10 will be offering a $44 three-course dinner menu. Porkchop will be offering a $22 two-course lunch menu and a $33 three-course dinner menu. For reservations, diners can contact A10 at 773-288-1010 and Porkchop at 773-493-9333.

A10’s Matthias Merges recognized for community work

Award-winning chef Matthias Merges, owner of 53rd Street’s A10 and Yusho restaurants, was recently recognized in Food & Wine magazine for his decade-long involvement with the Cook County Jail “to operate an inmate-run vegetable garden that supplies produce to local homeless shelters, nonprofits and fine-dining restaurants in the Chicago area.”

As part of the Cook County Sheriff’s Pre-Release Center program, which assists inmates in creating productive lives for themselves after prison as well as dealing with substance abuse issues, the garden is “a way for us to give back to the community,” Merges said. Inmates can become certified Master Gardeners, and Merges has even hired several graduates of the program to work in his restaurants.

Read the full article in Food & Wine.

A10 Receives Michelin Guide Honor

By Lilian Huang

53rd Street is now home to a Michelin Guide-award-winning restaurant: A10.

Chef Matthias Merges' venture into Italian and French cuisine has received multiple positive reviews since opening in November 2013. Now the Michelin Guide, which annually publishes a popular listing of restaurant recommendations for travelers, has named A10 one of its Bib Gourmand recipients for 2015.

The Bib Gourmand is awarded to restaurants that offer exceptional value, or, in the words of the Michelin Guide, “restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less” while maintaining high quality.

A10, located at 1462 E. 53rd St., is one of 59 Chicago restaurants included on the 2015 Bib Gourmand list. It is also only the second restaurant in Hyde Park to be recognized by Michelin. French restaurant La Petite Folie, at 1504 E. 55th Street, has also been recommended by the guide.

Yusho Hyde Park Opens Its Doors for Dinner Sept. 13

By Rachel Wasielewski

After months of planning, award-winning chef Matthias Merges will open his second restaurant in Hyde Park tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 13. Yusho, a yakitori-inspired concept located at 1301 E. 53rd Street, will be open for dinner from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Merges, who also owns A10 at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, said yakitori is a Japanese street style in which every piece of the chicken is grilled through simple cooking techniques. The original Yusho opened in the Avondole neighborhood three years ago and has become a popular dining spot.

“Kids come in and enjoy the chicken skin. Foodies love the grilled octopus with egg yolk vinaigrette,” said Merges. “We have a wide breadth and scope of flavors and techniques, so there’s something for everyone.

The Yusho concept was inspired by Merges’ travels to Japan and other parts of Asia. The word “yusho” has two meanings, the older of which was used to describe serving great wine to friends. The modern definition is used in Sumo and means first rank. Both elements are reflected in the Yusho dining experience.

Dinner prices range from $5.50 for the Chicken Skin to $17.00 for Kakuni Pork Belly. Sweets range from $6.00 to $10.00. The bar offers a variety of alcohol—whiskey, sake, wine and more. The cocktail on draft will be the Calamansi Daquiri, made from El Dorado rum and an exotic citrus fruit from the Philippines that adds floral notes such as orange blossoms, dried citrus zest, and yuzu fruit.

Merges said he and his team had been looking at Hyde Park for years and that his first restaurant in the neighborhood, A10, has received a great reception and that many people have reached out in anticipation for Yusho since he first announced plans to open it two years ago. He plans to add lunch at the new restaurant sometime in the future.

In addition to the Avondale location, Merges also operates Yusho in Las Vegas. He notes that customers can expect to see variations and individualization among the three spots.

Reservations for Yusho Hyde Park are not necessary. The restaurant serves customers on a first come, first served basis.

 

The Promontory opens today

The Promontory restaurant and bar will open for business today, adding a new dining experience to a growing restaurant scene in Hyde Park’s 53rd Street corridor.

The new establishment, at 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue, features a “hearth to table” theme and a menu by Chef Jared Wentworth, whose work at Longman & Eagle earned that popular Chicago restaurant a Michelin star. The Promontory, named for Promontory Point in Hyde Park, is the newest concept from Chicago restaurateurs Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden, who are also partners in Longman & Eagle.

The restaurant, which joins A10, Porkchop, Native Foods, and Red Mango among new 53rd Street-area eateries, is part of a multiyear effort led by the University of Chicago to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor. The Promontory occupies the south end of the two-story building at 53rd and Lake Park that had been a shuttered Borders bookstore.

“The Promontory is a great addition to Hyde Park and will offer another venue for local community members who have expressed a desire for a variety of dining options,” said James Hennessy, Associate Vice President for Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University.

The restaurant and bar occupy the first floor of the two-story building. Beginning this fall, the Promontory will also offer live musical performances in its second-floor space.  It will feature an eclectic lineup of local and national touring artists, similar to Empty Bottle and Space, two other venues Finkelman and Golden are partners in, respectively.

“Both the Empty Bottle and Space have established themselves as institutions for live music in the Chicago area, and The Promontory will bring that same commitment to the Hyde Park community,” the restaurant’s owners said in a written statement.

The space, which is expected to have capacity for 300 seats, will also serve as a community center, hosting events such as farmers markets and craft fairs.

The hours of operation for the restaurant and bar will be Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m.

 

June 24 Hyde Park Dinner Crawl to feature 53rd Street cuisine

Eight restaurants on 53rd Street will offer culinary delights as part of the Hyde Park Dinner Crawl organized by the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce.

Stops along the Crawl include A10, Chant, Clarke's, Kilwins, Mellow Yellow, Native Foods, Pizza Capri, and Rajun Cajun.

The event will run from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24. Tickets are $30 per person in advance or $35 on the day of the Crawl. To purchase tickets online, visit hydeparkchamberchicago.org/crawl.

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.