News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Hyatt Place

Faces of 53rd Street: Anthony Beach

by Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Anthony Beach beams with pride as he strolls around the lobby of Hyatt Place-South/University Medical Center. It's not just because he is general manager of a property that regularly boasts high ratings and high occupancy for its 131 rooms. It's not just because the hotel has helped draw more people to the 53rd Street corridor, boosting business for the shops and restaurants surrounding Harper Court. The underlying cause for Anthony's pride is that, as a Hyde Park High School graduate who grew up in the Englewood neighborhood, he takes particular pleasure in knowing that his work contributes to the economy in his local community.

Beach started in his position before the hotel opened in 2013 and played an integral part in its opening operations, including hiring employees, obtaining licenses, and implementing Hyatt processes and training and development. The hotel has 39 full- and part-time employees, and 69 percent of them are from nearby South Side neighborhoods.

“I was the first employee. I take pride in seeing the outcome of what we are and how it began,” Beach says of his role as general manager of Hyatt Place-South.

Noted for a casually chic ambience and a lobby filled with local art, Hyatt Place-South has grown over the past two years into a cornerstone of the neighborhood, attracting travelers and locals alike. But when Anthony was growing up in Englewood, his dreams had nothing to do with hotels. “I wanted to be a cop. I wanted to be in law enforcement,” recalls the 40-year-old Beach, who has lived on the South Side his whole life.

Inspired to make a difference in the struggling community around him, he signed up for the U.S. Army Reserve and worked in chemical warfare. Taking advantage of the GI bill, he enrolled at South Suburban College with an eye towards joining the police force. He graduated from South Suburban College with an associate’s degree, but by the time he finished his bachelor’s degree at the University of Phoenix, he had also gained hotel experience at the Marriott in Oak Brook, Ill., and at the Inn of Chicago. When he landed at the legendary Palmer House hotel, he discovered that his talents might not lie in law enforcement.

“I was promoted quickly, from front desk manager to supervisor. I was progressing so quickly that I realized that I was making more and doing more than I would as a police officer,” he recalls of his 10-year career there.

Not that he gave up on helping his community. “We've partnered with Kenwood Academy High School for internships. Chicago Vocational High School sent students here to shadow us. We sponsor events. We give certificates for raffles,” Beach notes. “We try to support what we can. Our eyes are open to help.”

Indeed, whether it’s neighborhood regulars sipping coffee at the lobby cafe, or baby showers and book club meetings being held in the conference spaces, the Hyatt Place-South has become a welcoming spot for local residents. And Anthony Beach wouldn't have it any other way.

New brochure highlights 53rd Street dining, shopping and entertainment

Options for dining, shopping and recreation in the 53rd Street commercial corridor are highlighted in a new brochure, which will be available at high-traffic locations on the University of Chicago campus, at the Hyatt Place hotel and other locations.

View a PDF of the brochure, or request printed copies to display at your business or other location.

Private drive at Harper Court now one-way

As of this morning, the new street that was created with the redevelopment of Harper Court has changed from two-directional to one-way. The street, called Harper Court, is a private drive that starts at 53rd Street just west of Chipotle Mexican Grill and ends at Harper Avenue just north of the Hyatt Place hotel.

Traffic on the private drive will now flow north from 53rd Street and west to Harper Avenue only. The property manager for the Harper Court office tower, at 5235 South Harper Court, announced the change to retail tenants of the property earlier this week, noting that the decision was made after extensive evaluation of the traffic flow.

The change is expected to improve overall traffic flow for motorists visiting businesses facing the private drive, as well as nearby businesses. New signs at each end of the street reflect the one-way flow.

 

Hyde Park Native Foods off to a strong start, planning April specials

Since opening at Harper Court two weeks ago, vegan restaurant Native Foods Café has gotten a welcome reception from Hyde Park, with sales about 20 percent stronger than expected, according to one of the restaurant's owners.

“Our first two weeks have been great, which we didn’t expect since (University of Chicago) students are on spring break,” said Andrea McGinty, co-owner of the Chicago-based restaurant chain.

McGinty said the eatery at 1518 E.  Harper Court is seeing a “very high level of takeouts” driven by dinner orders. However, in recent days, more customers have been stopping in for lunch and dining in.

Native Foods’ menu is 100 percent plant-based, includes gluten-free options, and is updated seasonally. Best-selling menu items in Hyde Park so far include the “Rockin’ Morracan Bowl,” “Native Nachos,” and “Native Chicken,” according to McGinty. The restaurant also features “Native Community Days” twice a month, where sales proceeds go to support local non-profit organizations that focus on animal rescue, educating kids about obesity, or community gardens.

“A lot of people were ready for a place like this,” said Jose Perez, a manager at the location. He added that many Hyde Park customers had previously frequented the Native Foods location in the Loop, where he was an assistant manager before the Hyde Park outlet opened on March 11.

The new restaurant is on the first level of the Harper Court complex, just south of the Hyatt Place hotel. Perez notes that the address is on a new street that was created as part of the redevelopment of Harper Court, so some people have had trouble finding it and it does not show up on GPS systems. He advises people who call to use the intersection of 53rd and Lake Park Avenue for navigation.

To draw customers, restaurant employees have been visiting other businesses on 53rd Street and giving away gift cards for $5 to $10. Current gift cards are good through March 31.

Starting in April, the restaurant will have two new offerings that it hopes will bring in even more customers. Customers interested in recreating the restaurant’s meals will be able to purchase a new cookbook called Native Foods Celebration Cookbook at the location. And on April 11, 12 and 13, the store will offer a new special menu item, the Crispy Avocado Crunch Wrap, which features avocado battered in coconut. The dish will be available for only three days and is part of a monthly promotion of special meals.

Native Foods is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

 

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.

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.

Hyatt Place hotel now open in Hyde Park

The new Hyatt Place hotel that is part of the Harper Court redevelopment opened for business today, marking the first opening of a newly constructed hotel in Hyde Park in about five decades, Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Olympia Hotel Management announced.

The 131-room hotel, officially named Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center, will host an open house with free food and drinks from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow (September 18) for anyone interested in seeing the inside of the hotel.

Read more about the hotel and what it will bring to Hyde Park and surrounding neighborhoods.

Comfort Me Boutique pop-up shop coming to Hyde Park

Chicago-based retailer Comfort Me Boutique is set to open a temporary location on 53rd Street on August 2. The pop-up store will be located at 5241 S. Harper Avenue.

Comfort Me Boutique, which operates a store in Lincoln Park, sells comfortable and stylish women's clothing, jewelry, gifts, and vintage and new furnishings for the home. If the temporary location is successful, it could eventually become long-term, said Alyssa Thomas, a co-owner of the store.

"We are so excited to be a part of Hyde Park and think that we can provide a unique shopping experience," Thomas said in a press release. "We're hopeful that the Hyde Park community will appreciate the fact that we're a family-owned business that supports local designers and carries lines that are made in the U.S."

The store will hold a grand opening event, with refreshments and live music, on August 10, from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

The Comfort Me Boutique – Hyde Park will be located across the street from the Harper Theater and Kilwins, and next to the new Hyatt Place hotel that is set top open this fall.

The retailer joins more than a dozen new businesses opened or opening along the 53rd Street corridor since 2011, complementing the existing businesses in the neighborhood. The strong growth in retail, restaurant and entertainment options in Hyde Park is the result of a joint effort among the community, the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago to bring new amenities and economic vitality to Hyde Park, which serves as a commercial hub for the South Side as well as a destination for visitors from around Chicago and the nation.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Harper Court earns high marks for sustainability

The U.S. Green Building Council, an organization devoted to sustainable building and design, has bestowed its LEED for Neighborhood Development Gold rating on Harper Court. The distinction makes the 53rd Street development the highest LEED-rated project of its kind in Illinois and among the highest rated in the nation.

Harper Court Partners, the developers of Harper Court, said the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Neighborhood Development designation recognizes the mixed-use project’s location in a densely populated urban neighborhood and proximity to public transportation, among other things.

When it opens in 2013, Harper Court will consist of a 12-story office tower, nearly 45,000 square feet of retail space, an LA Fitness center and a Hyatt Place hotel.

Read more about the LEED-ND Gold rating, including comments from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer, in the developer’s press release.

Harper Court signs new restaurants, reaches construction milestone

When it opens next year, the Harper Court development on 53rd Street will be home to authentic Jamaican restaurant Ja’Grill, a casual gastro-pub eatery called Park Tavern, and a new location for Starbucks.

Developer Harper Court Partners, LLC, today announced that it has signed leases to bring the new retail tenants to the development, bringing the total pre-leasing level to 86.4%. Previously announced tenants include LA Fitness, Chipotle Mexican Grill and a Hyatt Place hotel.

Execution of the new leases, which total 10,000 square feet of space, coincided with the final concrete pour — or “topping off” — of the project’s 12-story office tower, which will have the University of Chicago as its anchor tenant. Retail tenants will be located on the ground floor of the development. The new Harper Court is set to open in summer 2013.

For more information, read the developer’s press release: http://www.harpercourtchicago.com/node/32