News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

"Chef of the Year" shares plans for 53rd Street

Chicago restaurateur Matthias Merges, who plans to open two new restaurants in Hyde Park this year, was recently named Chef of the Year at the 2013 Jean Banchet Awards—a high honor in the restaurant industry. Merges, who owns the popular Logan Square eatery Yusho, also told the Eater blog that one of his new spots will be called Yusho Hyde Park and that the other would feature cuisines from Northern Italy, Southern France and the Alps. That restaurant has not yet been named.

Read more about Merges award and his plans for 53rd Street on the Eater blog.

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.

Harper Theater opens this weekend

The newly renovated Harper Theater will open for business this weekend, bringing first-run movies back to Hyde Park for the first time in about 10 years.

Starting Friday, Jan. 18, the four-screen theater will feature the films Les Miserables, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty. The box office will open at 8 a.m., and the first show time will be 11 a.m., for Silver Linings Playbook.

The Harper Theater website began selling tickets online Wednesday of this week and “had sold more than 60 within the first few hours of posting,” said Tony Fox, owner of the New 400 Theaters, the company that is operating Harper Theater.

The theater, at 5238 S. Harper Avenue just off 53rd Street, includes a café that will offer a variety of food and beverage items from Chicago-based providers, including croissants from Hyde Park’s Medici café, cupcakes from the Brown Sugar Bakery in Greater Grand Crossing, and coffee drinks from North Side roaster Metropolis Coffee. The café will be open daily from 8 a.m. until the last show time.

“We want the theater to be a central place for culture and family time in the community – from date nights and family outings to a place to enjoy a great cup of coffee or a sandwich,” Fox said, adding that show times for matinees may be adjusted based on demand.

Movie ticket prices are $8 for adults, $7 for students and $6 for seniors, children and matinee shows. Fox said the New 400 plans to give away movie posters to customers who come out for the theater’s first day.

The theater opening returns a historic Hyde Park building to use. The Harper Theater building was first issued a permit in 1913. The University of Chicago, which purchased the building in 2002, announced in February 2011 that it planned to renovate and re-open the theater with the New 400 as operator. Prior to that, the building had been unoccupied for more than a decade.

The re-opening of Harper Theater also is part of a broader redevelopment effort in Hyde Park’s 53rd Street retail corridor. Development activity began with the November 2011 groundbreaking for Harper Court and has included the recent openings of new businesses such as Akira, Kilwins, Clarke’s and Five Guys.

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.”

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

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 press@promontorychicago.com

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 http://harpercourtchicago.com/.


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.