Hyde Park development heated up in 2012

Staff Writer

Hyde Park had a busy year for real estate and development, centered on the remaking of 53rd Street, the neighborhood’s retail corridor, but affecting the entire community.

Development in 2012

The new Harper Court began to take shape in 2012.

The building reached its full height, achieved LEED certification, leased almost all of the space, began installing the façade, partnered with local businesses, renovated the former Borders building.

ULTA joined Akira among Harper Court’s fashion-oriented developments. Hyatt Hotel, LA Fitness and the University of Chicago occupy the remaining non-retail space in the building.

Other retailers and restaurateurs will include Park Tavern, Ja’ Grill, Starbucks and Chipotle.

The Harper Theater is expected to open to the public in January. Operator Tony Fox, whose company is renovating the historic theater, said there is some red tape holding up the opening.

Kilwins began offering its sweet treats in time for the holidays. The chocolate and candy shop opened its doors on Saturday, Dec. 22. Owner and Hyde Parker Jackie Jackson celebrated the soft opening of her second Kilwins, 5226 S. Harper St., store location in Chicago.

To honor the neighborhood Jackson created a Hyde Park Mud ice cream. Jackson described it as “velvety, vanilla ice cream with caramel swirls throughout and explosions of chocolate chips.” Hyde Park Mud’s fudgey counterpart is “a creamy vanilla-based fudge with caramel swirls throughout and dark chocolate fudge.”
Harper Court announced it achieved the highest sustainability rating in the state for a project of its kind, making it among the most environmentally friendly buildings in the nation.

The U.S. Green Building Council awarded Harper Court LEED certification for Neighborhood Development Gold rating.

LEED ratings are awarded to buildings that have achieved certain benchmarks towards creating a sustainable structure. Buildings that achieve benchmarks for waste reduction, lower operating costs, water and energy conservation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions can qualify for financial incentives and tax rebates.
The University of Chicago’s Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, finished construction and hosted an opening arts festival in October. The three-day celebration included live music, theater performances, works of poetry, original compositions and plays among many other artistic endeavors.

The Logan Center is the last of the University of Chicago’s 11 major construction projects on the south side of campus. The 184,000 square foot building provides space for the university’s arts, theater, dance, music and film programs to congregate. Previously arts disciplines were scattered across campus.

Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, designed the center after winning a competition in spring 2007. The 11-story structure is highlighted by a 170-foot tall tower with views on all sides of the neighborhood, skyline and lakeshore.

The tower was inspired by the Carnegie Hall Tower that Williams’ and Tsien’s firm has worked in for 35 years. The building’s long, low base was inspired, Williams said, by the Midwestern prairie.

The building has what Williams called two streets, vertical and horizontal, based around the central staircase.

“We thought … people would meet each other along the street and dodge into their destination, which could be a studio or classroom or rehearsal space and we thought it would be happy and healthy,” Williams said. “Once the building opened a student wrote the stairs are always changing.”

The $114 million development broke ground in May 2010. In late March of this year the building opened for classes and events, however not all the spaces were completed.

Restaurants opened up, or were announced, along 53rd Street.

Matthias Merges, who was the executive chef and director of operations at Charlie Trotter’s, announced that he will open two new restaurants in 2013.
The restaurants will include a northern Italian/southern France style restaurant near Harper Theater and a second branch of Yusho, a Japanese street food style restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Third World Café, 1301 E. 53rd St., Third World Café closed in the spring.

Litehouse Whole Food Grill opened up in the fall. The sandwich shop is located at 1373 E. 53rd St.

A new music venue and restaurant is planned for the former Borders building. Bruce Finkelman, who operates Empty Bottle, Bite Café and Beauty Bar, among other nightlife venues, has partnered with Craig Golden, of Evanston’s Space and Union Pizza to bring chef Jared Wentworth to Hyde Park.

They will open up a new restaurant, bar and music venue called The Promontory, behind the space that Akira now occupies.

The three have previously collaborated on the Michelin-starred restaurant Longman & Eagle.

The restaurant will also have space for a bar and concert venue, 1539 E. 53rd St. The restaurant is scheduled to open in early 2013.

Wentworth, who will be Promontory’s head chef, has worked in the past for Quinn’s in Seattle, which focuses on game and seasonal fare. Longman & Eagle operates in a similar vein, using local, organic and sustainable ingredients on an ever-changing menu.

Village Foods

Hyde Park’s most affordable grocery store closed after 30 years, to make way for a Whole Foods, medium-box retailers and condos in a building designed by Jeanne Gang.

Village Foods, 5100 S. Lake Park Ave., opened in 1983, general manager Barry Monroe said.

We outlasted Mr. G’s, the Co-op, Michaels, all of our competition,” Monroe said. “We’d still be here if we hadn’t lost our lease.”

Antheus Capital had planned to demolish all the buildings at the Village Shopping center in November, but demolition had yet to begin before the end of December. Anthus spokesman Peter Cassel expects the buildings to be demolished in the first half of 2013.

Members of the Hyde Park Kiwanis Club worked with Village Foods and St. Martin de Porres House of Hope, Chicago Youth Programs, Ald. Will Burns’ (4th) Ward office and Ronald McDonald House to distribute the unsold merchandise to area non-profits and shelters.

Monroe told Kiwanis that the total value of foods was estimated between $20,000-25,000.

Village Foods employed about 70 people, roughly half of them Hyde Parkers, and served 10,000 customers a week, said Monroe.

“This was a place for people with families that was affordable,” Monroe said.

Antheus Capital will replace the Village Shopping Center with City Hyde Park, a 187-foot-tall building designed by Gang Studios.

Upscale grocery store Whole Foods is going to be anchor tenant on the first floor of the building, the second floor will have space for medium size box retailers and the remaining stories will have 182 apartments, including 38 affordable units.

Monroe did say he would be interested in opening a similar store in Hyde Park in the future, if he could find a retail space that was large enough, had parking and in a desirable location.


In November the Chicago City Council approved removing the property of the Village Shopping Center from the 53rd Street TIF District and allowing it to become its own, independent tax increment financing district.

Property owner, the Silliman Group, sought the change and intends to use the $11.3 million tax dollars generated from the TIF to help finance the construction of a Whole Foods grocery store and mixed-income housing.

Silliman asked for the change, which was approved in September by the Community Development Commission. The same board that watches over the 53rd Street TIF will advise the 51st Street/Lake Park TIF.

Silliman sought the change as a means of creating a new revenue stream after the majority of TIF funds from the 53rd Street TIF District were committed to the development at Harper Court. TIFs are an economic tool used to generate property tax dollars specifically so they can then be reinvested in that area to help spur further development. TIF dollars collected from the 53rd Street TIF have been committed to fund the developments at Harper Court.

To avoid waiting to receive funding left over after Harper Court, Silliman sought to create the new district with itself at the front of the line.

The $115 million project will be financed using $8.5 million in non-cash equity, $26.5 million in cash equity, $69 million in construction loans and $11 million in new market tax credits.

Demolition on the remaining vacant buildings was scheduled to begin in November. Silliman spokesman Peter Cassel said the demolition will take place within the first half of 2013.

The total amount of TIF money generated from the property over the 23-year life of the TIF district is estimated to be $14 million in 2012 dollars. Of that, $11.3 million will be set aside for construction on City Hyde Park and the remaining $2.5 million will be available for community improvements.

“The reason why Whole Foods improves the community, let me be clear, I’m not a huge fan personally of Whole Foods because it’s very expensive for me,” Ald. Will Burns (4th) said at a 53rd Street TIF advisory board meeting in October. “But what we want in this TIF district and in Hyde Park is a mix of national retail and local retail. So City Hyde Park and the developers have agreed to bring in local retailers along with national retailers. The reason why you want a Whole Foods is it sends a signal to the market that you’re maybe a little bit upscale and its okay to come to the South Side of Chicago. And why that’s important is that we haven’t been able to get, I don’t know if you’ve tried to buy clothes in Hyde Park but good luck. This should help us solve for that problem.”

City Hyde Park will be built on the site where Village Foods operated, until it closed.

Fenn House

Fenn House’s sale is pending.

The 6,000 square foot home, owned by First Unitarian Church since 1952, has been on and off the sale block since 2010 and has been actively seeking a buyer since mid-April.

Baird and Warner listing broker Nicholas Colagiovanni, has been tight-lipped about the buyer, and would only that the sale is pending.

“I can tell you this, the prospective buyers are planning on living there,” Colagiovanni said. “We’re in the due diligence period, we haven’t gotten to the closing table yet.”

There are currently no plans to run a bed and breakfast out of the six bedroom, six a half bathroom home, Colagiovanni said.

It listed for $1.195 million in August. The house was originally constructed in 1913 and designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. The home includes a stretch of yard six feet wide by 50 feet long along the south side of the building.

First Unitarian bought the home to expand their school. Over the decades it has been home to the South Side Hub of Production and Blue Gargoyle.

SHoP has been preparing for the move. It is planning a closing party on December 31. The party will begin at 6 p.m. for more information visit southsidehub.org.

Hyde Park Bank sale

In September Hyde Park Bank announced that it’s parent company HPK Financial Corporation would be sold to Wintrust Financial Corporation, a suburban-based company.

Wintrust bought Hyde Park Bank for $27.5 million. The deal was completed earlier this month.

Hyde Park Bank was in good financial health at the time of the sale. The bank was not sold at a loss. At the time of the sale it held $375 million in assets and $238 million in deposits.

Hyde Park Bank operates two branches in the neighborhood, at 1525 E. Hyde Park Blvd. and 1131 E. 57th St.

At the completion of the sale Hyde Park Bank’s new president Michael McGarry said in a press release “We intend to uphold our reputation for supporting our community and providing friendly personal service. … Our customers will continue to see many of the same familiar faces in the bank, but our new organization will allow us to offer a wider range of products and give customers more convenient access to their accounts at Wintrust locations throughout Chicagoland.”

Wintrust owns 15 other bank subsidiaries in Wisconsin and Illinois.

Hyde Park Bank’s now-former Chief Executive Officer Tim Goodsell said at the time of the purchase “The banking business has changed a great deal in the last five years, since the great recession, and it has become increasingly difficult for banks our size to provide the broad range of products and services that the larger banks can … That has been exacerbated by the low interest rate environment so it has become more and more difficult for us to achieve a return that we think is adequate for our shareholders and for our customers. So we thought partnering with a larger organization is the way to achieve the financial size and power to compete in the market.”

The two locations will not close and very little turnover in staff is expected.

Red Line shut down

The Chicago Transit Authority announced in June that the entire Red Line south of Cermak/Chinatown will be shut down for five months starting in May 2013.
The repairs will include replacing and updating everything, including ties, rails, third rail, ballast and drainage systems.

The CTA estimates that performing the renovations in five months, as opposed to working only on weekends over four years, will save $75 million. That money will be put into station improvements and renovations across the South Side.

Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose ward will be most affected by the closure, voiced her support for the Red Line renovation in a press release, saying the benefits outweigh the inconveniences.

“The upgrade of the tracks is long overdue. Riders have had to deal with delays for years because of the deteriorating tracks,” Dowell said.

Free station-to-station shuttle buses will provide service between Garfield on the Green Line and 95th/Dan Ryan station. Red Line stops at 95th/Dan Ryan, 87th, 79th, and 69th will have their own shuttle service running continually and directly to Garfield on the Green Line.

A concrete turnaround being installed at 55th Street and Calumet Avenue to accommodate shuttle buses that will replace trains will be turned into a parking lot once the work is complete.

Any work done to the parkway will be restored.

Chicago Transit Authority spokesman George Coleman, government and community relations officer, Chris Bushell, chief infrastructure officer, and Tony McFadden director of the control center and bus service management, came to speak to the Washington Park Advisory Council in December.

“I never though the CTA would consider taking up grass and putting cement at Calumet and 55th,” said WPAC president Cecile Butler. ‘To me that was my worst nightmare.”

Seminary Co-op

The Seminary Co-op bookstore moved out of its long-time home at the Chicago Theological Seminary into McGiffert House.

On Sunday Nov. 11 the Co-op closed the basement space, at 5757 S. University Ave., and began removing the books from cases. Manager Jack Cella said if you placed all the shelves end-to-end they would stretch 1.5 miles.

On Wednesday Nov. 21 the Seminary Co-op opened in its new space, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

The University of Chicago bought CTS and paid for the renovations at McGiffert House. CTS will be part of the future home of the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

Many of the architectural elements that made the former Co-op space a beloved place were nodded to with the new building.

The nooks and crannies that came about as a result of trying to fit as many books as possible into one basement have been given a nod in the new space. The bookshelves are set at an angle against the walls, creating a disjointed feeling.

“The maze element has been retained,” Cella said.

Alcoves are built into the shelves so that someone browsing can be surrounded on three sides by books. But the new space is a little wider, to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The space is fully ADA compliant, down to the newly installed elevator.

The low ceiling at the original Co-op, which forced employees over four feet tall to duck, is gone. The exposed pipes that kept the old bookstore cozy in February and sweltering in July haven’t come along. The new ceiling does have exposed pipes in the ceiling, but they’re situated well above where anyone is likely to bump their head.

“They’ll still be there, just higher,” Cella said.

The store has a view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, a staunch difference from the former space, which was completely underground.

When they heard the bookstore would be moving out of the basement University graduates Jasmine Kwong and Megan E. Doherty decided to document the subterranean space that was gone when the store moved into a new space.

“I thought I have to do photography not so much of people but so that we can remember exactly what this place looked like all the shelves and the pipes and the this and the that,” Doherty said.

Kwong wanted to take portraits of bookstore browsers, curled up in wooden chairs or practicing their ballet steps using blue pipes as balance bars while simultaneously flipping through hardcovers.

They took it upon themselves to document as best they can, not only the quiet moments of the browsing the stacks of a bookstore, but also the appearance and feeling of being among Seminary Co-op’s book-lined walls, organ bellows, duct tape and pipes.

They solicited memories from among the co-op’s more than 5,000 members, university alumni and bibliophiles

Kwong and Doherty have also been recording the memories of those who passed through the stacks over the last half-century either looking for “Dialogues of Plato” or a calculus textbook.

The project will live on the web, and will be displayed in 2014 in the Regenstein Library. Ultimately they hope to find a publisher for a high-quality photo book documenting the bookstore, its architecture, oral history and found moments.