By Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul
Assistant to the Editor
Community members and businesspeople convened at the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting Monday, May 13, to discuss and detail the changing face of Hyde Park.
Highlights of the meeting, held at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., included a proposed neighborhood special service area (SSA) as well as updates on the progress of the City Hyde Park and Harper Court developments.
Wendy Williams, executive director of the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), discussed the proposal for a neighborhood SSA, a Chicago program in which additional taxes would be levied on properties in a specific area to fund improvements. The sponsoring agency for the proposed Hyde Park SSA is the SECC.
According to a map distributed at the meeting as part of an SECC survey of Hyde Park residents’ and business owners’ opinions on the neighborhood, the proposed SSA would share its boundaries with the 53rd Street TIF, save a streak of land jutting south along Kenwood Avenue and spanning one block west at its widest point. Though the map is not available online, those interested can fill out the survey at surveymonkey.com/s/hydepark ssa.
Williams appealed to the TIF advisory council to consider funding part of the SSA, thereby lowering its tax burden from 1 percent to .625 percent.
“Because of the SSA tax, the TIF will get more money. So we’re hoping that the TIF will allocate back to the SSA that funding so that we can lessen the overall tax burden,” Williams said.
The SSA would include no private homes and only a handful of mixed residential and commercial buildings, according to Williams. Two meetings on the SSA are planned for May 22 and May 30.
A quorum was not met for a vote on whether the TIF advisory council would recommend to Ald. Will Burns (4th) to use the 53rd Street TIF increment to fund the SSA. But council chair Ilene Jo Reizner said the “sentiment was very positive.”
Christopher Dillion, managing director of Vermillion Development, one of the two groups developing Harper Court, and Ed Small, president of Smart Hotels, which owns the Hyatt Place Chicago South/University Medical Center, described the progress being made on their properties.
Dillion shared with community members renderings and blueprints of the Harper Court development, which he said was approximately 95 percent leased and will house 223 underground as well as additional above-ground parking spaces. The below-grade parking will be for Harper Court’s offices and the Hyatt Hotel next to it, he later added.
Harper Court’s parking will be run by LAZ Parking, a Connecticut-based firm. Garage parking fees will likely be lower than street parking at first, before they increase so that the facilities will not be used by commuters, Dillion said.
Dillion estimated that the building would be turned over to tenants by around June 10 and expected businesses facing 53rd Street to open before the restaurants along the new street behind Harper Court. He said a dedication ceremony would be held in September, when the complex is complete.
Forty-four percent of Harper Court’s ground floor has been leased to Chicago-based businesses, according to Dillion.
“I think the important thing to note here is that everyone we’ve signed on the Harper Court frontage is a local tenant, a Chicago-based tenant” Dillion said, adding that “the community wanted to see things from other neighborhoods populating Harper Court.”
Small said his hotel was slated to open in September. It is currently being fitted with porcelain block walls. He predicted that, as a result of the Harper Court offices and area retail developments, “people are going to increasingly see Hyde Park as a destination location.”
Peter Cassel, director of community development for Antheus Capital, announced the placing of signage that day on the Sutherland Apartments, 4659 S. Drexel Blvd., and said The Shoreland, 5454 S Shore Dr., would house residents by at latest August or September.
He also addressed the development of City Hyde Park, located at the intersection of Lake Park Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard, adding that new retailers in the space will be announced by early summer and anchor tenant Whole Foods open by late 2015.
Hyde Park Bank President Mike McGarry fielded questions in the wake of its $27 million acquisition by the publicly-traded bank holding company WinTrust Financial, addressing several inquiries on matters including whether loans would become more difficult to receive.
“WinTrust operates 15 community banks. Each one operates separately. And, from a legal standpoint, we are a branch of Beverly [Bank],” McGarry said, adding that Hyde Park Bank’s loan services have moved to the Beverly neighborhood.
The meeting concluded with a presentation by SECC board member Richard Gill on a proposed University of Chicago-funded study on transportation needs in the area, for which Ald. Burns created a task force. The study will examine two corridors along 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, he said.