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.