Vue53 is what Hyde Park wants

To the Editor:

In recent weeks, members of the Hyde Park community have shared their opinions about Mesa Development’s proposed project for 1330 E. 53rd St. in various ways — including in letters to this newspaper. In my role as the University of Chicago’s vice president for civic engagement, I have heard directly from individuals who like the proposal and those who don’t. The majority have expressed enthusiasm for all that the project would bring to Hyde Park.

This community feedback underscores the importance of the project and how Mesa’s current proposal came to be. The University of Chicago is committed to partnering with our neighbors to enhance quality of life and economic development on the South Side. For several years, in partnership with the Fourth Ward office and the City of Chicago, the university has been leading efforts to boost economic activity in the 53rd Street corridor and bring new amenities to the area. From the university’s perspective, a vibrant retail corridor enlivens the whole neighborhood while also helping to attract top faculty, students and staff. So, community input has been integral to these efforts from the beginning.

Since 2007, four visioning workshops and dozens of meetings with community members have helped form Mesa’s approach to this development.

Community members said they wanted affordable housing. Mesa’s proposal would add affordable housing units, on-site and off-site, equal to 20 percent of the units at Vue53.

The community asked for new retail options. Vue53 would house up to six new retailers.

Residents said local jobs had to be a priority. Vue53 would create 300 construction jobs, with a focus on hiring from mid-South Side neighborhoods and engaging minority and women contractors. It would create dozens of permanent jobs in retail and building management.

Community members wanted dedicated parking and environmentally sustainable features. Vue53 would include 230 parking spaces and target LEED Silver certification.

Importantly, taxpayers said they did not want to subsidize the project. Vue53 would use no public tax dollars to build and, in fact, would contribute an estimated $7.7 million back to the community through additional revenues for the 53rd Street TIF district.

Members of the community spoke, and Mesa listened — outlining its latest plans at the May 6th TIF Advisory Council meeting. The resulting project is one that many people I’ve heard from think will support the long-term success and vitality of Hyde Park. As an anchor institution in the neighborhood, the University of Chicago shares this view.

Derek Douglas
Vice President for Civic Engagement