Happy to see changes on 53rd Street

To the Editor:

At 69 years of age, I’m happy to see improvements to our shopping options. Without a car, I am frequently on 53rd Street visiting my old favorites Kimberly Lee and Supreme. Recently I’ve added Comfort Me to my list of places to shop. My cousin and I visit the theater once a week and we change up our restaurant visits to include newcomers and reliable old standbys.

Progress is good as long as we still maintain that friendly feeling of visiting a merchant who treats you like a friend. Having moved to Hyde Park out of choice at the age of 21, I sought a community with young and old, integrated and with a social conscience. I think I got exactly what I was looking for.

There are some things I would love to see happen to help our retail area. Since the University of Chicago will be running a shuttle between Harper Court and the university, why not operate a shuttle that would take residents from Harper Court down 53rd Street to the shopping area that contains Hyde Park Produce and is across the street from [Freehling Pot and Pan Company]. This would encourage more business and soften the blow of TIF funds used, in effect, by the university. Residents would feel they are getting something in return. Imagine something attractive like the red tour buses making their way down 53rd Street.

Next, I think as a community we have to remember our ongoing commitment to the arts. Why can’t one of the Harper spaces go to Artisans 21 perhaps shared with Fair Trade? The Arts Council received $6 million from the university. I’m sure they have spent some of that money wisely, however, as a resident, I have never seen an accounting of that money in the Herald. Why couldn’t the Arts Council underwrite the rent for two years for these establishments?

Finally, great care needs to go into the blocks of storefronts starting at Harper and going west. For 40 years we had a gallery on 53rd Street. The Waller gallery was as comfortable as [57th Street Books]. To this day I have a wonderful piece of art Mr. Waller gave to me when I was in my 20s — Other pieces went on a lay-a-way plan. Then came Joe Smith’s gallery and his wonderful work he did with the teens in the area. Why is that location being utilized as a residence? Is the zoning not for retail? Do we have no control over our retail corridor? Can the chamber of commerce issue recommendations for retail windows?

We have not lost our small town community — we need only to care for it like an old friend.

Karen Phillips