News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

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.”

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:

New restaurant and concert venue coming to Hyde Park

The University of Chicago has reached an agreement to lease space to Chicago restaurant operators Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden, who plan to open a new restaurant and concert venue on 53rd Street. The restaurateurs issued the following announcement:

Bruce Finkelman (Empty Bottle, Bite Cafe, Longman & Eagle, Beauty Bar) and Craig Golden (SPACE, UNION, Longman & Eagle,) have partnered to open The Promontory, a new restaurant, bar and concert venue, slated to open in early 2013. Named after Hyde Park’s beloved Promontory Point, the new venture aims to bring a similar energy, inventiveness and dedication to craft that that can be found in the partners’ current endeavors. Finkelman and Golden are excited to be the first of many exciting new business owners involved with the 53rd Street revitalization project being driven by the University of Chicago. Chef/partner Jared Wentworth, whose work at Longman & Eagle garnered a Michelin Star two years in a row among praise from GQ, Esquire, Bon Appetite, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, the New York Times and more, will helm this hearth driven kitchen. For further information please contact

The Promontory will be located in the former Borders building, which also will house the flagship store of Chicago-based fashion retailer Akira, scheduled to open this fall.

Retail and parking structure at Harper Court reaches second story

Construction on retail and parking space at the far northwest corner of the new Harper Court recently reached the second story—the highest planned enclosed level for that part of the mixed-used development.

While the most visible piece of the redevelopment of Harper Court is the office tower that has been rising at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, McHugh Construction also has been busy working on the opposite end of the site. The two-story structure, which extends to Harper Avenue, will include one-level of underground parking, retail space on the ground floor, enclosed parking on the second floor, and open-air parking on the roof.

That end of the development eventually will be connected to the office tower, forming an L-shape. Construction progress on the corner of the L (the northeast end of the development, on the Lake Park side) so far has not been visible from the street.

Ground-floor retail space, along with second-floor and underground parking, will extend throughout the development. In the office tower, the third floor will house an LA Fitness center, with office space on the upper floors.

McHugh Construction recently poured cement for the ninth floor of the 12-story tower, and the first phase of the redevelopment is set to open in 2013. Besides the office tower, retail and parking, the first phase will include a Hyatt Place hotel, south of the retail and parking structure.

The Harper Court project, which is a partnership between the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago, broke ground in November 2011. In addition to LA Fitness and Hyatt Place, confirmed tenants include Chipotle Mexican Grill and the University.

For more information about Harper Court, including Twitter updates, visit the developer’s website at

McHugh Construction crew at work on the second level of the retail and parking structure on the northwest end of Harper Court.

The office tower at Harper Court continues to take shape on the corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.

Visioning workshop report available for review and input

Community members’ vision for 53rd Street was a key topic at the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council meeting earlier this week. South East Chicago Commission Executive Director Wendy Williams presented a preliminary report from the 53rd Street Visioning Workshop that took place on April 21 this year. The workshop was the fourth held since 2007, after the City of Chicago, the University of Chicago, local elected officials and the community began partnering to redevelop and revitalize the commercial corridor on 53rd.

More than 200 community residents attended the April workshop and shared their ideas and opinions on three topics: redevelopment of the Mobil site at 1330 E. 53rd, Nichols Park in relation to the commercial corridor, and the overall 53rd Street experience. The preliminary report details those ideas and provides an overview of progress that has been made toward achieving community members’ vision expressed in earlier workshops.

Both Williams and 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns asked that individuals who attended the workshop read the preliminary report to make sure all the ideas presented at the workshop are included in the final report. Download the preliminary report here, and send any changes to SECC Program Manager James Kenady at by Monday, July 16, 2012.

Summer Festival brings out crowds

East 53rd Street was bustling with people shopping, eating and enjoying live musical performances last weekend, as crowds turned out Saturday and Sunday for the third annual Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival.

Despite an unexpected rainstorm that slowed down the festival for a short while Sunday, about 60,000 people attended the two-day event, according to Wendy Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, which organizes the festival.

Roy Ayers headlined the event Saturday evening, and the Average White Band performed on the main stage Sunday night.

Several local elected officials attended the festival and took to the stage briefly Sunday evening to greet the crowd, including 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell, 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns, 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston, State Representative Kimberly du Buclet and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. State Senator Donne Trotter attended Saturday.

Friends of Celebrate Hyde Park, which allowed individuals to support the festival and secure a seat close to the main stage with a $100 donation, was a new addition to this year’s festival and was well-received.

“Friends of Celebrate Hyde Park was a big success, with dozens of people choosing to support this and future festivals on 53rd Street,” Williams said.

The Celebrate Hyde Park festival series was designed to attract consumers to East 53rd Street as several sites on the street undergo construction as part of revitalization efforts. The Hyde Park Vitality Committee kicked off the first festival three years ago, with key sponsorship from the SECC, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and UChicago’s Office of Civic Engagement.

Crowd gathers on 53rd Street for Roy Ayers’ performance June 30.

Festival-goers enjoy the show.

Face painting was among several featured children’s activities.

Dozens of vendors displayed their wares on 53rd.

Wendy Williams speaks to the crowd from the main stage.

Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival Attracts More Vendors, Sponsors in its Third Year

This weekend 100 vendors will set up booths along East 53rd Street as part of the third annual Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival, up from 60 vendors at the first festival in 2010.

The increase in vendor participation is a sign of the festival’s growing popularity and the fact that it has become a signature event in the Hyde Park community, according to Wendy Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission, a key festival sponsor.

Nearly 60,000 people turned out for the festival last year and sponsors expect 2012 attendance to exceed that.

“People attending this year’s festival will have the opportunity to browse the wares and offerings of about 85 art and specialty vendors and 16 food vendors,” Williams said. “More than a dozen of these will be local Hyde Park businesses and several also have a store-front presence along 53rd Street, so there will be an extra opportunity to support local businesses.”

Festival sponsorship also is up this year, with more than 20 corporate, community and individual sponsors lending support. The Hyde Park Vitality Committee, which launched the first festival, continues to be the main sponsor. The committee includes the SECC, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and UChicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, among others.

The two-day festival, which will take place this coming Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1, features live musical performances, shopping and other entertainment. Headlining this year’s event are two 1970s music icons—the Average White Band and Roy Ayers. The main festival will be held on 53rd Street between Harper and Kimbark Avenues, with activities for children in Nichols Park. Festival hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days, with face painting, kids’ yoga and other children’s activities from noon to 4 p.m.

Admission is open to the public, and a $5 donation is requested.

Download a festival map, with vendor and sponsor listings below. For more information, visit

Roy Ayers performs at the 2011 Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival.

Construction Update

A May 31 post reported the beginning of demolition of the façade of the former Borders building. Now, the exterior walls of the building have been largely removed, and construction of the new façade is scheduled to begin next week.

The building at 1539 E. 53rd Street will house a flagship store of Chicago-based fashion retailer Akira. Akira is expected to open this fall, bringing a new option for women’s clothing, accessories and shoes to Hyde Park.

2012 Summer Festival Expected to Draw More than 60,000 to 53rd Street

The third annual Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival will bring the sounds of summer concerts back to East 53rd Street Saturday, June 30, and Sunday, July 1. The 2012 festival will feature both first-time and returning attractions, as well as a new option for VIP concert access.

With featured performances by two 1970s music icons—the Average White Band and Roy Ayers—Celebrate Hyde Park sponsors expect more than 60,000 people to attend this year’s festival.

“The Summer Festival has grown from a single-day of concerts in 2010 to a two-day event that brought nearly 60,000 Hyde Park residents and visitors out last year to enjoy the music, food and activities on 53rd Street,” said Wallace E. Goode, executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, one of the festival sponsors. “This year we expect to easily exceed that.”

In addition to AWB and a return performance by Roy Ayers, the schedule of musical acts includes the Dee Alexander Jazz Band and R&B performers Chicago Catz. Dozens of local vendors and shop owners will offer food and merchandise along 53rd.

“Celebrate Hyde Park’s Summer Festival is intended to offer an opportunity for families and individuals to have a fun weekend while also exploring what the shops and vendors in the neighborhood’s historic shopping district have to offer,” said Wendy Williams, executive director of the Southeast Chicago Commission. “Each year, we look for more ways to make the event more enjoyable.”

The main festival will be held on 53rd Street between Harper and Kimbark Avenues, with activities for children in Nichols Park. Festival hours will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days, with face painting and other children’s activities from noon to 4 p.m.

Admission is open to the public, and a $5 donation is requested.

Text for a chance to win 2 VIP seats

New to this year’s festival: a VIP seating area close to the main stage, with easy “in and out” access. Festival fans can get two of the reserved seats and two Celebrate Hyde Park t-shirts with a $100 donation to Friends of Celebrate Hyde Park.

For a chance to win free VIP seats, anyone can text “CHP VIP SEATS” to 72727. One winner will be selected for each festival day. The drawing for the free seats will be held on June 28.

Celebrate Hyde Park festivals are sponsored by the Hyde Park Vitality Committee, which includes the SECC, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce and UChicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, among others. Other sponsors of the 2012 Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival include Art Works Chicago, Chicago Park District, Direct Effect Newmedia, Fifth Third Bancorp, Heart & Soul, Hyatt Regency, Hyde Park Herald, Quadrangle, and WBEZ and WCPT radio.

For more information, visit