News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Community Discussion on 53rd Street Continues

This month, the South East Chicago Commission in partnership with the University of Chicago will conduct phone surveys and host informal meetings to continue gathering community input on the ongoing development on 53rd Street. These steps follow visioning workshops that have already helped shape the redevelopment of Harper Court and generated ideas for future development.

The upcoming discussions will lay the groundwork for a public meeting to discuss plans for developing a parcel of land that is now the site of a Mobil station and surface lots. The University of Chicago and 4th Ward Ald. Will Burns plan to announce a date for the public meeting in the coming days. Read more on the SECC website.

Kilwins to debut sweet offerings on 53rd Street this weekend

Hyde Parker Jackie Jackson says she expects to open her new Kilwins Chocolate, Fudge and Ice Cream shop in the 53rd Street retail corridor by December 8. The store, located at 5226 S. Harper Avenue, will offer hand-crafted chocolates, truffles, hot apple cider, hot chocolate (made from real chocolate), cappuccinos, and other warm treats, alongside gourmet ice cream and candy.

The Hyde Park shop will be only the second Kilwins in the Chicago area. “We think this location is going to be great,” said Jackson, who co-owns the business with her fiancé, Kenneth Faulkner, and has operated the Kilwins in the Old Town neighborhood since 2008. “As Hyde Park residents, we’re especially excited to be opening here.”

To honor the community, the Hyde Park Kilwins will offer a new ice cream flavor called Hyde Park Mud, a combination of creamy vanilla ice cream, caramel swirls and chocolate chips. Customers will be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi, large-screen TVs, and seating for up to 30 people. Jackson and Faulkner also plan to make the new store a site for social gatherings, with events like open-mic poetry, “Jazz and Java,” birthday parties and fudge demonstrations. They hope to partner with local churches, schools and other organizations that might want to use Kilwins products for fundraising.

Ice Cream & Treats

Jackson and Faulkner have hired new employees for the store and expects to have 16 employees during peak seasons. She says they “will be working like little Santa’s elves” to get everything ready for a first day of business this Saturday. While she is planning a grand opening event for December 21 (with prizes, photo ops with Kilwin the Moose, and a chance to win free fudge for a year), she wants to be sure the store is open in time to allow customers to order customized gift baskets for the holidays.

Regular store hours will be 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. Monday – Friday, and 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. However, Jackson adds that Kilwins might adjust its hours to accommodate late-night theatergoers after the new Harper Theater opens.

Kilwins is located just north of the theater, which is expected to open in the coming weeks. Both new businesses are part of a broader effort to revitalize the 53rd Street retail corridor. The University of Chicago first announced the Kilwins lease signing in February this year.

CorePower Yoga Deal Fills Former Borders Building

CorePower Yoga, which offers yoga classes for beginners to advanced students, has signed a lease with the University of Chicago for 4,347 square feet of space in the building at 1539 E. 53rd Street. CorePower Yoga expects to open the new location in mid-2013.

The agreement brings the building, which previously housed a Borders Books and Music store, to 100% leased.

Other confirmed tenants in the 25,000-square-foot building include The Promontory, a new restaurant and entertainment venue by the owners of the popular Longman & Eagle eatery, Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden; and Chicago-based fashion retailer Akira, which opened on the first floor of the building last week. The yoga studio will occupy the space above Akira.

The University purchased the former Borders building in July 2011 after the now-defunct bookseller closed its Hyde Park store. Securing new tenants for the building has been part of a broader effort to revitalize the 53rd Street retail corridor.

“The building’s size and location make it well-suited for a variety of uses, and we’re pleased that we’ve been able to fill it with some great new options for shopping, dining and working out in Hyde Park,” said James Hennessy, Associate Vice President of Real Estate Operations for the University of Chicago. “These amenities complement the existing and new businesses around the building and add to the economic vitality and momentum of the corridor.”

Core Yoga Location

AKIRA opening tomorrow

Fashion retailer AKIRA is set to open its newest store at 1539 E. 53rd Street tomorrow, Nov. 21. The Chicago-based boutique will bring a new option for women’s apparel to Hyde Park.

“This is going to be one of our larger stores and one of the first locations with both shoes and clothing,” said Eric Hsueh, co-owner of Akira, which operates about 20 stores in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. “There has been a lot of buzz about Hyde Park, and we are really excited to be in the neighborhood.”

Akira will open tomorrow from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., and will reopen Friday, Nov. 23, at 6 a.m. for “Black Friday” shopping. Regular store hours will be 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Monday – Friday; 10 a.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sunday.

The opening of Akira, along with the redevelopment of Harper Court and other recent business openings, is part of a broader effort to revitalize the 53rd Street retail corridor. The new Akira is located in the former Borders building in Hyde Park, and the exterior of the building has been completely renovated. The University of Chicago announced the deal to bring Akira to 53rd Street in January this year.

Signage going up at Harper Theater

Workers began installing the marquee and vertical blade signs at Harper Theater this week, signaling that the new theater will be opening soon.

The New 400 Theaters will operate the theater at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue as a four-screen multiplex, with 90 to 138 seats per screen. Sign installation is scheduled to be complete today, and the newly renovated theater is expected to open in the coming weeks.


The blade sign, which is 24-feet tall and about 4-feet wide, arrived at the theater site earlier this week. Photo courtesy of Jon Dennis.


Installation of the 38’ x 3’6”marquee is nearly complete. Photo by Rob Kozloff.


The Harper Theater blade sign lit up last night. Photo by Rob Kozloff.

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.

In the news: Talk about the future of dining in Hyde Park

Earlier this week at his October ward meeting, 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns introduced the audience to Chicago restaurateur Matthias Merges, who announced plans to open two new restaurants in Hyde Park in 2013. Merges also recently talked to dining blog Eater Chicago about what the new restaurants might look like. Read the Eater Chicago article here.

ULTA Beauty brings pre-leasing at Harper Court to 90.4%

Harper Court Partners, LLC, today announced that retailer ULTA Beauty has joined the growing list of tenants for the Harper Court development, bringing total pre-leasing for the project to 90.4%.

ULTA Beauty—which sells cosmetics, fragrance, haircare, skincare, bath and body products, and operates a full-service salon in its stores—will bring another option for convenient fashion-oriented shopping to Hyde Park. The retailer currently has four locations in the city of Chicago. The closest to Hyde Park is at 114 S. State Street.

"The addition of ULTA Beauty to Harper Court, along with the opening of AKIRA, represents an inflection point, signaling the entrance of fashion-oriented retailers into the Hyde Park neighborhood,” said Darrin Jolas, Director of Leasing & Development with Vermilion Development.

ULTA Beauty will occupy 8,890 square feet on the ground floor of Harper Court when it opens next year. Read more about it in the developer’s press release.

3rd Annual Celebrate Hyde Park Oktoberfest Adds Second Day, Children's Book Fair; October 6 and 7

The annual Celebrate Hyde Park Oktoberfest will return to 53rd Street this year as a bigger, more family-friendly event, adding a second day of musical performances and including a popular Children’s Book Fair in the lineup of youth activities.

The 2012 festival will be held Saturday, October 6, and Sunday, October 7, and will feature Chicago-area performers, including Dave Matthews tribute band the Trippin Billies and R&B artists Chicago Catz. The extra day is expected to boost festival attendance from about 9,000 people in 2011 to 15,000 - 20,000 this year.

As part of the Celebrate Hyde Park festival series, Oktoberfest is designed to attract people to the fast-growing 53rd Street retail corridor. The festivals are sponsored by the Hyde Park Vitality Committee, which includes the University of Chicago as the lead festival sponsor, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, and the South East Chicago Commission, among others.

“Three years ago, we set out with a mission to help bring people of all ages to 53rd Street for fun and entertainment,” said Wendy Williams, executive director of the SECC, which organizes the festival. “Today, Oktoberfest and other Celebrate Hyde Park festivals have become widely anticipated community events and a significant part of the cultural offerings of the neighborhood.”

In addition to musical performances, scheduled activities include a beer garden for adults and a pumpkin patch, parade, pony rides and other entertainment for children—all for a suggested donation of $5. Food and retail vendors also will line 53rd Street from Dorchester to Kimbark Avenues. Children’s activities will be held in Nichols Park, adjacent to 53rd. Festival hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

New home for former 57th Street Children’s Book Fair

Among the activities in Nichols Park will be the Children’s Book Fair, which previously had been held on 57th Street in Hyde Park for 25 years. A new addition to Oktoberfest, the book fair will include author appearances and book signings as well as books for purchase. The fair will be open from 1 – 6 p.m. both days on the south end of Nichols Park, near 55th and Kimbark.

“Oktoberfest continues to get bigger and better,” said Wallace Goode, executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. “The mix of entertainment and vendor offerings attracts people from both surrounding neighborhoods and other parts of the city and provides an opportunity for local businesses to show what they have to offer.”

For access to the Celebrate Hyde Park mobile app and for updates on Oktoberfest, text CHP to 72727.

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