News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Hotel project getting off the ground

Two recent developments brought plans for the new Hyatt Place Hotel on 53rd Street closer to being fulfilled.

First, construction work at the Harper Court redevelopment site included completion of the pad on which the hotel will be built. That step means the site is ready to be turned over to hotel developers—Smart Hotels LLC and the Olympia Companies—to begin construction.

Second, the Chicago City Council earlier this week approved a tax-increment-financing request from Smart Hotels, and the hotel project is now fully funded. Smart Hotels, which develops hotels near college campuses, will operate the hotel under a franchise agreement with Hyatt Place.

The six-story, 131-room, select-service hotel is scheduled to open in fall 2013 and will be the first new hotel in Hyde Park in more than 50 years. It will be built on the southwest end of the Harper Court redevelopment site and will have an address on Harper Avenue.

Harper Court Partners LLC, the developers for Harper Court selected the hotel developers in March 2011. For more information about the hotel, visit Harper Court Partners’ website:

In Case You Missed it … Shop Local

An ad in the Hyde Park Herald’s May 30 edition reminds community residents to visit businesses on East 53rd Street during construction. The South East Chicago Commission, Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, and the University of Chicago teamed up to sponsor the ad as a way to support existing retailers along the street.

The two-sided, full-page insert features alphabetical listings of about 80 local businesses offering consumer products and services. The listings include phone numbers and addresses. The advertisement was inserted in subscription and newsstand copies of the Herald and also will be inside copies of the newspaper handed out at this weekend’s 57th Street Art Fair.

“East 53rd Street is home to a variety of vibrant businesses that have been serving the needs of the local community for years—from specialty food shops and technology stores to dry cleaners and hair salons,” said Wallace Goode, executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. “They are all open for business during development construction and will be an important part of the revitalized 53rd Street.”

The Shop Local ad followed a similar Eat Local ad that appeared in the newspaper in March. If you missed the inserts in the Herald, click here to download the flyers.


Renovation work begins for Akira site

“Coming Soon” signs recently went up at the building that once housed Borders Books and Music, announcing that the flagship store for fashion retailer Akira is on its way to 53rd Street.

Scaffolding and fencing are currently being installed around the building at 1539 E. 53rd St., and demolition of the existing façade will begin later this week. The renovation work will give a new look to the exterior of the building. Construction is expected to begin at the site in mid-June.

Chicago-based Akira will occupy much of the first floor of the building and is expected to open this fall. UChicago, which purchased the former Borders building last summer as part of its broader effort to bring new businesses and amenities to Hyde Park, is talking with other potential tenants about remaining space in the building.

Signs at 1539 E. 53rd Street flag the coming of Akira.

An artist’s rendering of the completed Akira flagship store.

Calmetta Coleman
calmetta's picture

53rd Street Bicycle Center to Celebrate Grand Opening

Fourth Ward Alderman Will Burns will join representatives from UChicago, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and bike commuter center operator Bike and Park for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the grand opening of the 53rd Street Bicycle Center tomorrow, Thursday, May 24, at 1 p.m.

The bike center is located at 1558 E. 53rd Street, next door to the Metra station at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue. It opened quietly last Thursday and already has been serving cyclists and other customers. Bike and Park, which also operates a bike commuter center in Millennium Park, offers bike rentals, storage, tours and other amenities at the location.

The 53rd Street Bicycle Center is the latest new business to open on 53rd Street since UChicago partnered with the City of Chicago to help revitalize the area. The space now occupied by the bike center was previously vacant for about 10 years. UChicago recently leased the space from Metra.

James Hennessy and Jonathan Dennis from UChicago’s Commercial Real Estate Office are expected to attend the grand opening, along with the Executive Director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Wallace Goode. For more information about Bike and Park and services that will be offered at the new center, visit

Photos by Beth Rooney

High School Architecture Students Visit 53rd Street

Two construction sites on 53rd Street served as an extended classroom last week for 30 students from King College Prep High School. The students, from the school’s Architecture and Engineering class, donned hard hats to tour the Harper Court development and The New 400 Theaters site.

UChicago’s Commercial Real Estate Office hosted the students, who spent Thursday morning talking to an architect and a developer working on the 53rd Street projects.

“Our goal is to expose them to all of the careers involved in property development—from the architects and developers to the construction crew or lawyers who work on zoning,” said Jonathan Dennis, a project manager for the University’s Commercial Real Estate Operations. “Then they can find out what they gravitate to.”

The high schoolers are focusing on architectural drawings in their class at King College Prep, which is part of the University’s Neighborhood Schools Program.

“Hearing from the developer helped them make a connection between the drawings they are doing and an overall development project,” said Shaz Rasul, director of the Neighborhood Schools Program.

Thursday’s tour was the second time King students had visited 53rd Street since development began. A group toured the theater site last year when construction began, and some of those same students returned last week.

“It’s exciting to bring students in to see different stages of development,” Dennis said. “The next time they see the theater, they will probably be going to a movie there.”

The New 400 Theaters is expected to open in November.

After the construction site tours, the students and their chaperones ate lunch at Clarke's restaurant, which opened in February.

Photo by Beth Rooney

Sign signals Bike Center coming soon

The new 53rd Street Bicycle Center rolled a step closer to being ready for business this past weekend. Construction workers installed signage on the front of the building on the northeast corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue. The halo-lit sign gives a new look to the Lake Park façade of the long-vacant space.

The sign sits just above four picture-style windows, one of which was recently added when workers took out a Lake Park-facing door. The main entrance for the bike center will be on 53rd Street underneath the viaduct, where a wider sidewalk will allow more room for cyclists to enter and exit with bikes. Patrons also will be able to enter from a second door inside the Metra station adjacent to the bike center.

The 53rd Street Bicycle Center will be operated by Bike and Park and will offer bike rentals, storage and tours. It is expected to open later this month.

Second floor rising at Harper Court

The new Harper Court development is now rising out of the ground on 53rd Street. Workers for James McHugh Construction Company recently poured cement for the second floor of the 12-story office tower that is part of the mixed-use project, which is expected to open in 2013.

Harper Court will house a new Hyatt Place hotel, LA Fitness, Chipotle Mexican Grill and a 150,000-square-foot office tower, among other tenants. The project is a redevelopment of the former Harper Court shopping center and is being led by the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago.

For a project timeline and an artist’s rendering of the new Harper Court, visit developers Harper Court Partners, LLC’s website:

Calmetta Coleman
calmetta's picture

Like to Bike? Bicycle Center coming to 53rd Street

Hyde Park cyclists will soon have a new resource to turn to for bike rentals, storage and tours. The University of Chicago plans to open a bicycle center next to the Metra station at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue within the coming weeks.

The new facility will be called the 53rd Street Bicycle Center. Bike and Park, a unit of Chicago-based Bike and Roll, which has locations at Millennium Park, Navy Pier and elsewhere around the country, will run the center.  The company plans to feature a fleet of several dozen bikes for rent and will offer a variety of tours in and around Hyde Park, including food tours by bike.

Rendering of new bicycle center

The bicycle center “will help promote biking among commuters, residents and visitors to Hyde Park, at a time when the whole city is aiming to become more bike-friendly,” said James Hennessy, director of commercial real estate for the University.

The 53rd Street Bicycle Center will fill a 2,000-square-foot space underneath the Metra tracks that has been vacant for 10 years. It is the latest amenity the University is bringing to 53rd Street as part of its efforts to revitalize the area. The bike center will soon join Clarke’s and Five Guys restaurants as recently opened businesses on the street. Other new businesses are coming this fall.

Read more about this on the UChicago News website.

Chipotle coming to 53rd Street

Developer Harper Court Partners, LLC, announced today that Chipotle Mexican Grill has signed on as a lead tenant for Harper Court, which is set to open on 53rd Street in 2013.

The popular fast food restaurant will join LA Fitness, Hyatt Place Hotel and the University of Chicago as major tenants. The 53rd Street location will be Chipotle’s second on the South Side of Chicago. 

“It is a nice amenity for the neighborhood and a popular choice here on campus,” said Jim Hennessy, director of commercial real estate for the University of Chicago. “It is also a sign of the enthusiasm major retailers have for the revitalization of 53rd Street and another step toward long-term economic vibrancy here.”

For more information, read Harper Court Partners’ press release.

Clarke's restaurant opens Feb. 13 in Hyde Park

Clarke’s 24-hour restaurant will open this Monday starting at 8 a.m. During its opening day, Clarke’s will offer a pre-Valentine’s Day special to include a 10 percent discount for each total bill until midnight.

Located at 1451 E. 53rd St., the menu choices include a variety of items such as omelets, pancakes, stir-fry dishes, sandwiches and a host of other food selections.

UChicago officials brought the all-night eatery to Hyde Park’s key commercial corridor to address the interests of students and the community for more late-night amenities.

“As we continue to work closely with the community, the City and Alderman Will Burns to strengthen our ongoing revitalization efforts, we believe adding the right mix of restaurants and retail businesses will bring added value to Hyde Park that residents have been asking for over the past several years,” said James Hennessy, director of Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University.

Established in 1986, Clarke’s has existing locations in Lincoln Park, Evanston, Lakeview and Bucktown.

“We are very proud to make Hyde Park our new home for Clarke’s as a key destination on the South Side of Chicago,” said Steve Dionysopoulos, co-owner of Clarke’s. “With the rapid growth in an important business area along 53rd Street, we believe that our 24-hour restaurant will meet the needs of both students and the community at large. We are very excited to be a part of the Hyde Park community.”

Take a sneak peek inside below.