News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

Five Guys restaurant heads to 53rd Street

The University of Chicago is bringing Five Guys, a restaurant chain whose burgers have a devoted following nationwide, to Hyde Park.

Five Guys has signed on as the inaugural tenant at the soon-to-be renovated office and theater buildings at 53rd and Harper Avenue. The news comes fast on the heels of the University’s announcement that it is renovating these key buildings.

“We’re delighted to introduce this crowd favorite to our community,” said James Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate Operations for the University. “The University is committed to working with the community to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor, and the arrival of Five Guys is good news for those efforts.”

With 725 locations around the country, Five Guys is just one of a number of big-name retailers the University is talking with about setting up shop in new spaces along 53rd Street, here and at the nearby Harper Court redevelopment, to blend with local businesses.

The new Five Guys in Hyde Park will occupy 2,200 square feet and could also make use of outdoor seating with a plan for attractive awnings. Officials said they expect the restaurant to open around the end of this year.

Five Guys, which began as a sensation in the Washington, D.C. area, boasts that there are “25,000 possible ways order a burger,” and has plenty of awards to back up the buzz. At least one Hyde Parker is a believer: President Barack Obama made a highly publicized visit to a Washington, D.C. Five Guys location back in 2009, ordering jalapenos, tomato and mustard on his cheeseburger along with a side of fries. Check out the video!

“We are very excited to be a part of the Hyde Park area,” said Julie Speer, Five Guys area manager in the Chicago region. “We think it is a great fit for Five Guys and are excited to become a part of the community.”

Stay tuned — more news about new 53rd St. businesses is expected in the coming months.

Good News for 53rd Street Revitalization

Starting this week, the University of Chicago will undertake a major renovation of the theater and office buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue, with a completion date slated for this fall. The facelift will open up opportunities for new restaurant, retail and other tenants.

University officials made the announcement during the Monday, Jan. 10 TIF Council meeting. Find out more information here:

Wendy Parks
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Beautify Your World

Are you interested in helping to enhance the physical attractiveness of the community?

If so, the South East Chicago Commission and the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement invite organizations within Hyde Park –South Kenwood, North Kenwood–Oakland, Woodlawn and Washington Park communities to apply for the Neighborhood Enhancement Grant Program. Organizations could receive a grant, up to a maximum of $10,000, based on the proposed program. To name a few project examples, some include landscaping, fencing, public art displays and lighting.

Applications are available at The application deadline is Friday, Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. Call the South East Chicago Commission at 773–324–6929 to learn more.

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to work together as community partners to improve the aesthetics of our neighborhoods, strengthen civic pride and enhance the quality of our urban living,” said Wendy Walker Williams, Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission.

Since 1999, the program has offered a total of $50,000 each year to various schools, churches, community organizations, park advisory councils and block groups to support neighborhood “beautification projects.”

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A Little Miracle on 53rd Street

Just in case you missed it, check out the Celebrate Hyde Park Festival of Lights event that began inside Pizza Capri earlier this month. The festivities started at 10 a.m. and children, parents and family members came out to enjoy a hearty breakfast along with taking pictures with Santa. Throughout the afternoon, the fun continued at Nichols Park with face painting, crafts and much more, ending with a community reception at the former Hollywood Video building.

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Art Here Art Now...Round 2

With the popularity of the inaugural Art Here Art Now event launched back in October, a new set of artists will unveil their creative work this Saturday from 5 – 7 p.m.

The free, opening reception for Art Here Art Now Round 2 will follow the Celebrate Hyde Park Festival of Lights event, which kicks off earlier in the day. The entire community is invited to come out and view the new art installations at 5225 S. Harper Ave., located in University–owned storefronts between Starbucks and Boston Market.

The project gives artists, who are often in need of exhibition space, a fabulous opportunity to highlight their passion, right here in Hyde Park—all at no cost to participants.

But just in case you can’t make it, several artists will have their work featured through January 2011. Pedestrians will be able look through the windows and check out the installations 24/7.

Art Here Art Now

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Save the Date…This Saturday!

Come on out this Saturday for “Brunch with Santa,” from 10 a.m. to noon at Pizza Capri, 1501 E. 53rd St. Kids and parents are invited to hang out with Mr. Claus himself during the brunch, which is part of the new Celebrate Hyde Park Festival of Lights event.

Merchants along 53rd Street will display holiday lights in their windows as part of the festivities. From noon – 5 p.m. the fun continues in Nichols Park, with face painting, story telling, arts and crafts—including an opportunity to create get-well and holiday cards for young patients at Comer Children’s Hospital and La Rabida Children’s Hospital.

If you love to sing, around 4:30 p.m. you can join carolers who will make their way from Nichols Park to 1530 E. 53rd St. (the former site of Hollywood Video). Caroling also will take place throughout the day. Call (773) 324-6929 if you or your choir would like to sing.

Last but not least, around 5:30 p.m. hot cocoa, coffee and cookies will be served following the sing-a-long, for a small donation or a non-perishable food item to benefit the Hyde Park Union Church food pantry.

Hope to see you there!

Harper Court Moves Ahead

The redevelopment of Harper Court passed two major milestones recently, as the structure of the project begins to take shape.

Last week, the redevelopment agreement for Harper Court was unanimously approved by the City Council, providing $23.4 million TIF funds along with $85 million in Recovery Zone Facility Bonds.

So, how do Recovery Zone Facility Bonds work? The Federal Government authorized the City to issue $200 million in bonds to qualifying projects. Since Harper Court qualifies, the city will issue $85 million in bonds to Harper Court Partners, who will in turn sell the bonds and become fully responsible for repayment.

This is not a grant, but simply first-mortgage financing with lower tax-exempt interest rates.

A few weeks earlier, by unanimous vote, the City’s Chicago Plan Commission approved an amendment in zoning for Harper Court to allow an increase in density to accommodate a mix of uses including:

  • 150,000 square feet of office space
  • 100,000 square feet of retail commercial space
  • 435 parking spaces
  • 150 hotel rooms and
  • 395 residential dwelling units, which is a part of the project’s second phase

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, who addressed the Commission prior to the vote, said, “We have been in a community process for more than a decade. We are hoping to have this wonderful development on 53rd Street. I would ask for support of this body.”

Business Owner & Operator Yolanda Travis of McDonald’s, 5220 S. Lake Park Ave., who attended the meeting, said Harper Court would help to revitalize the community.

“Basically, we’re very supportive,” said attorney Donna J. Pugh, partner of Foley & Lardner LLP, who attended the meeting with Travis and represents the Hyde Park McDonald’s. “We’re very happy with the results.”

Next steps?

The planned development application by developers Vermilion has to go to the Zoning Committee on Nov. 23 and then to the City Council in December for final approval.

Wendy Parks
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The Wait is Over...

No need to stare down the street looking for the next bus — riders who use CTA Routes 171 and 172, as well as University shuttles, can now get real–time bus locations for these Hyde Park routes on their smart phones, iPads, the Internet — and coming soon, video screens in select locations.

The GPS based bus–tracking system, called TransLoc, was announced earlier this month and you can also find more information here:

TransLoc on the iPhone

Wendy Parks
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And the People Came Out

We hoped for the best and received much more than expected.

At the first–ever Celebrate Hyde Park Oktoberfest, more than 20,000 people poured into 53rd Street.

Dance? No problem. The German group D’Lustigen Holzhacker Baum kicked off the festivities followed by a wide variety of talent from R&B to blues to reggae and even a little bit of neo–soul.

The food drew crowds, too. I had a chance to enjoy tasty eggrolls from Chant restaurant, which were made fresh on the spot, and a tart–sweet–flavored soda named Ting that’s popular in the Caribbean.

Nichols Park was packed with kids taking their turns in the mini–petting zoo as others waited in line to have their face painted. There was definitely something for everyone to enjoy.

Take a look at what else I captured on video that took place throughout the day.

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Party at Oktoberfest this Saturday

Oktoberfest Schedule

If you want to kick back outdoors and have fun this weekend, join us Saturday at the first–ever Celebrate Hyde Park Oktoberfest. You can dance with the German group D’Lustigen Holzhacker Baum or soak in the vibe from local artists and bands such as Akasha, L.V. Banks, Dayna Lynn, Koku, Bernard Crump & the MECCA Band and Full Circle.

Need more reasons? It’s free and supposed to warm up to 70 degrees. Your favorite restaurants and businesses will be there. Pumpkin patch. Pony rides. Face painting. Games, and arts and crafts. It all happens from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. along 53rd Street, starting at Dorchester Avenue through Nichols Park.

“The Celebrate Hyde Park series of events has provided the perfect opportunity for collaboration between the South East Chicago Commission, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement,” said Wendy Williams, Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission. “Together, we have spent the last several months planning out this year’s festivals as a way to showcase what we have, right here, within our viable Hyde Park community.”

This year’s final fest will take place in December — Stay tuned!

Wendy Parks
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