U. of C. denies plans for site

Staff Writer

The University of Chicago says it has no plans for the Schuster Building after renovation is completed.

Almost all of the businesses inside the Schuster Building, which until recently housed Kimonti Salon, Lake Beauty Supply and Hyde Park Cigars, have either closed shop or moved within the neighborhood after their leases ended. Rajun Cajun remains open.

U. of C. commercial development project manager Jonathan Dennis was at the university’s community meeting on Thursday at the Nichols Park Field House, 1365 E. 53rd St., to discuss the retail plans on 53rd Street and outside campus. The Schuster Building sits on the southwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

“We don’t have any plans just yet. Some of [the businesses] are closing, some of them are relocating. The building needs some renovations, so that’s part of it and eventually there’s a need for some renovations on the storefront and things like that,” Dennis said.

While no commitments are being made to the existing tenants that would allow them first-dibs when renovations are complete, Dennis said they will be eligible to move back in.

The leases were being ended because the renovations are extensive and will take some time.

“Some of the renovations that these buildings require — they’re 100-year-old buildings — you can’t do while the tenant is there,” Dennis said. “And in order to bring a new tenant, or find a new tenant, you have to fix the buildings up, you have to bring the building up to code.”

Dennis said the university was experimenting with pop-up retailers to fill vacant storefronts. Comfort Me, 5241 S. Harper Ave., a Lincoln Park-based women’s clothing boutique, recently moved into the building diagonally across from the Schuster Building on 53rd Street on a six-month lease.

“They’re opening for a period of time; testing the market, see how they do,” Dennis said. “The idea is that everybody says they want certain types of retail, apparel and places to buy socks, and in order to attract some of those tenants you have to say ‘well, test the waters.’”