News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

TIF Advisory Council

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.

Proposed redevelopment of Mobil site on agenda for Jan. 30 TIF meeting

Representatives from the University of Chicago and Mesa Development LLC will present a plan to redevelop a parcel of land at 1330 E. 53rd Street at the next meeting of the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m.

The site on the west end of the commercial corridor currently houses a Mobil gas station, a car wash and a vacant lot. The proposed mixed-use project would enhance the vibrancy of the corridor by linking new development at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue with existing retail near Kimbark Plaza, creating a continual retail presence that will encourage a positive and interactive pedestrian experience.

Redevelopment of the site was among the topics of discussion at an April 2012 visioning workshop, where members of the community provided input on what they would like to see there. That input was summarized in a Visioning Report released in October 2012.

The TIF Council meeting will be held at Kenwood Academy in the Little Theatre and will begin at 7 p.m. Other topics on the agenda include the City Hyde Park project, Enterprise Zone, a Special Service Area for 53rd Street and the possible re-opening of Harper Avenue.

Members of the community are welcome to attend the meeting.

what's up with harper theater...

In addition to Harper Court, there is another University-owned property that is awaiting a makeover. The old Harper Theater building on the corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue has been vacant since the movie theater closed due to financial and management issues. Residents at the last TIF Advisory Council Meeting expressed concern that development is not moving faster.

The University purchased the building in 2002 and would also love to see it put to use, said Susan Campbell from the university’s Office of Civic Engagement, who is responsible for making sure that development strategies will boost the quality of life in the surrounding communities – i.e. make sure we will be able to shop, eat out and have fun, without leaving our neighborhoods.

Residents and potential developers recognize that the building has an important location and could really make 53rd street shine once it’s redeveloped. University folks recognize that as well.

“I want everyone to know that we feel the same way,” Campbell said at the meeting. “The developers of Harper Court feel the same way, and some of the people making proposals about that building’s development feel the same way, so we are all of like mind regarding the Harper Theater property.”

Campbell also mentioned that the slow economy has complicated efforts to find the right plan. Residents have offered a wide variety of ideas about what should be done with the building; some want it renovated, while others want it demolished.

“What we have heard is a mixture of thought,” she said. “We are not hearing a consensus, so we are considering all things at this point.”


And then there were four

The City and the University have narrowed the field of candidates to four in their search for the right development team for Harper Court, James Wilson of the Department of Community Development said at Monday's meeting with the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, an independent advisory panel serving the community and the Alderman.  

Five finalists had submitted proposals earlier this month, and four of those met the terms of the request for proposals ( Wilson said all four had creative ideas and all included plans for hotel, retail, entertainment, office, residential and parking spaces.

City and University representatives will interview the remaining teams this week and next, and examine their plans to make sure the proposals are viable.

Those proposals that make the next cut will be presented to the TIF Council this fall, possibly as early as the regularly scheduled September 14 meeting.

“We don’t want to bring anything to you that’s not doable,” Wilson told the TIF Council Monday. “We need to go through this process and make sure the ones we bring you are truly good ones.”

That could be all four, or it could be just one or two, Wilson said.

Members of the Council and the public said they are anxious for the project to move forward, and glad to see signs of progress. TIF Council Chair Howard Males underscored the urge to move forward, promising to schedule a special meeting in October if the presentation was not ready for the September meeting.