News about 53rd St. in Hyde Park, Chicago

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

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.

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:

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.

Akira clothing and shoes to open flagship on 53rd Street

The University of Chicago announced today it’s bringing local-based Akira apparel and shoes to 53rd Street in the former Borders building. Akira officials said the Hyde Park site is a prime location for its new flagship store.

“We are delighted to create a unique, flagship store in the heart of Hyde Park to offer women’s clothing and stylish footwear to add to customers’ fashion sense,” said Eric Hsueh, co-owner of Akira. “Our research has shown that many of our current clients drive in from Hyde Park and the surrounding communities to shop with us throughout Chicago. That’s why we believe Akira will bring added value to the neighborhood.”

The grand opening is planned for this fall.

Get the rest of the story here:

Akira owners Eric Hsueh, Erikka Wang, and Jon Cotay (left to right).

Akira in Bucktown location

Clarke's nearing completion

The soon-to-be opened Clarke’s restaurant is in its final stages of construction. The new exterior façade, storefront windows and signage have been added to the 24-hour eatery. In the next few weeks, architectural metal screening will be installed on the brick, which will help complete the new look.

Once the warmer temperatures settle in, the entire glass storefront of Clarke’s will open to the street to complement the outdoor seating.

News about the grand opening is expected next month.

Oktoberfest a Hit

More than 5,000 people packed 53rd Street and Nichols Park during the second annual Celebrate Hyde Park Oktoberfest. Several area food, jewelry, clothing and a host of additional vendors were on hand to greet the crowd and introduce their products to festival visitors.

"We are excited about the continued outpouring of support from the entire community as we continue to strengthen our Celebrate Hyde Park festivals," said Wendy Walker Williams, Executive Director of the South East Chicago Commission. "We are already beginning to prepare for next summer's huge event and welcome input from the community, civic organizations and leaders to help us make our festival series a major destination for the South Side of Chicago."

Celebrate Hyde Park events are a series of festivals that occur throughout the year to showcase the Hyde Park community. The events are designed to bring people of all ages to 53rd Street and Nichols Park to enjoy a wide variety of entertainment, products and food from the many local shops, restaurants and musical talent in the community.

The Celebrate Hyde Park festival series is sponsored by the Hyde Park Vitality Committee, a partnership between the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the South East Chicago Commission and various other area organizations.

Anyone interested in volunteering for next year’s Celebrate Hyde Park Summer Festival can call the South East Chicago Commission at 773.324.6926. Ideas to enhance the festival experience are also welcomed.