This schematic rendering of Phase II of the Harper Court development proposed by Wexford Science & Technology, LLC, which will house an expansion of the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, was unveiled during a press conference at the Polsky Center’s Polsky Exchange North building, 1452 E. 53rd St., Thursday, Oct. 19. The schematic rendering indicates that the total height of the structure will be about 28 stories, and will be located at the site of the current parking structure on South Lake Park Avenue with 20 stories of offices above 7 levels of parking and a street level of retail space. – Marc Monaghan

By Joseph Phillips
Staff Writer

This year, several proposals have been issued for development projects in Hyde Park including a few boutique hotels.

Sophy Hotel coming to Hyde Park in summer 2018

The new Sophy Boutique Hotel will be located at the corner of 53rd Street and Dorchester Avenue and is scheduled to open its doors in the summer of 2018, according to

The 98-room luxury boutique hotel in Hyde Park will feature a bar, restaurant with al fresco dining and a fitness center, according to the article. The hotel is on track to achieve LEED Silver certification and will be the preferred hotel destination of the University of Chicago.

According to the article, the name Sophy, which comes from the Greek word Sophia – meaning wisdom and dedication to excellence through the pursuit of knowledge, was inspired by the legacy of intellectual, artistic and cultural innovation that is part of the fabric of the University of Chicago and Hyde Park.

The hotel will be built by Gurnee, Ill. – based development company William A Randolph Inc. and designed by Chicago-based architect firm GREC Architect, who will lead the project, according to the article.

In addition to the developers of the project, the interior designer of the hotel will be Stonehill & Taylor.

Michael Reese Community Advisory Council formed

Alderman King announces members of Michael Reese CAC

Ald. Sophia King (4th) and her committee assembled members for the Michael Reese Community Advisory Council.

The advisory committee, which consists of five individuals, assisted in reviewing the submitted Request For Proposals (RFPs) for the Michael Reese site, 2960 S. Ellis Ave.

“The Michael Reese Redevelopment project is one of the most striking developments taking place in the City of Chicago,” King said in a written statement. “As projects of this scale and other sizable plans emerge, it is critical that the community be afforded access and insight, while given the opportunity to contribute valuable input, to help shape the direction of projects. I am grateful to not only the Advisory Committee but to all the applicants for their interest in ensuring that this development considers the prerogative of the community.”

According to King, a selection committee consisting of 4th Ward community residents Leonard McGee, Bill Gerstein, Reverend Andrea Davidson, Jim Buckner and Rhonda McFarland chose the members of the advisory committee.

The selection committee evaluated each applicant based upon development experience, community involvement, proximity to the Michael Reese site and historic knowledge of the community.

Eighteen community professionals were selected from more than 50 applicants.

The eighteen member Advisory Committee includes: Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, Jennifer Knight, Terry Nichols-Clark, Diane Dinkins-Carr, Sharon Eubanks–Pope, Craig Jeffrey, Jordan Buckner, Kevin Stanciel, Enrique Beckmann, Desmond Orr, Christopher Vaughn, Nicole Hayes, Tracey Bey, Janet Smith, Zakiyyah Muhammad, Kimshasa Baldwin, John Smith, and Calvin Lyons.

The Michael Reese Hospital Campus Site has been vacant since the hospital closed in 2008. The city purchased the site in 2009 hoping to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the winning bid for the Olympics was granted to Rio de Janeiro.

First Steps Toward Redeveloping of Michael Reese Hospital Site

In early October, developers of the former Michael Reese Hospital site would release its first ideas on how they would develop multiple projects on the 144-acre land.

The site, which the city used to present to Amazon in hopes of landing the company’s second headquarters, would also be available to pitch for other tech firms in the near future.

Developers believe that the connectivity is a potential boon to help lure tech firms that are in need of speed to earn a split-second advantage over competitors or data-hungry firms like data storage centers, by gaining complete access to Metra’s Fiber Optic cables in the area.

Currently, developers do not own the property and are in a negotiating redevelopment agreement with the city, which they believe will be finalized by the first quarter of next year.

The developers plan is to build housing, retail and a mix of uses that will make the location feel like other dense neighborhoods in the city.

Dog park proposed for 4th ward

Ald. King, community discuss dog park for 4th ward

With a number of 23 dog – friendly parks in the city, Ald. Sophia King (4th) would host a community meeting on Tuesday July 18, to discuss the potential of bringing the city’s 24th dog park to the 4th ward.
The meeting was held at Kennicott Park, 4434 S. Lake Park Ave.

“I think dog parks make communities vibrant,” King said in front of a group of dog advocates in favor of bringing a dog park to the community. “They help build friendships, bring safety to the community and there are a lot of positive attributes that come with that.”

King said after her first few weeks elected in office, she was approached by several 4th ward residents about the importance of bringing a friendly safe dog park to the community.

“We are [currently] looking at potential locations, [but] nothing is written in stone,” King said. “Our office has done a little background [and research] work on what people would like to see.”

During the presentation, King also discussed the importance of having “Dog-Friendly Areas” (DFA’s) within the community, potential locations for the park, how to form a committee to govern the park, and the type of features 4th ward residents would like to see in the park.

King shared that groups who are interested in starting the dog park would not only have to raise their own capital but maintain the facility and the ongoing maintenance.

“Once a Dog-Friendly Area is established, the DFA committee does not just go away,” said Claudine Malik, project manager of the Chicago Park District. “It’s a very grassroots organization.”

Ald. King hosted meeting to discuss Phase II of Harper Court

After a four year waiting period, Ald. Sophia King (4th) in collaboration with the University of Chicago, hosted a meeting to discuss Phase II of the Harper Court development project at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., on Wednesday June 14.

“The goal of tonight’s meeting was to bring the community into the process as early as possible so that the potential developers could hear from the people they are impacting,” King said, as she spoke about the importance of transparency, partnerships and accountability with the community on business projects.

King explained in an assisted presentation with the new developers back in June, that the project will begin construction in the spring of 2018 and be led by Baltimore developers “Wexford Science and Technology LLC,” who, according to their literature, specialize in building vibrant, mixed-use communities built on foundations of discovery, innovation and entrepreneurial activity.

“One half of the retail space will be divided to help expand programs for the Polsky Center,” said Thomas Osha, senior vice president of innovation and economic development for Wexford. “And the other half will be committed to bringing in new companies that would help bringm jobs into the area.”

During its presentation, Wexford displayed 3D rendering images of
their project, which included a 72,000 square foot office tower, a
90,000 square foot laboratory building and a 15,000 square feet retail

“We are aware of the community concerns,” Osha said. “The company has already considered the residents’ concerns of preserving the character of the neighborhood, size and density, parking and traffic flow, and communication with the leaders and stakeholders of the community before building.”

Harper Court’s second phase of development includes University of Chicago and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign technology facility partnership

The University of Chicago in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory announced a partnership in October to promote a major innovation initiative that will help bring a new research and technology lab facility to the south side.

The group held a press conference at the Polsky Center, 1452 E. 53rd St., announcing that the new partnership was designed to help connect entrepreneurs of Hyde Park with technologist from U. of I.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner spoke at the press conference and said that the partnership would be a positive one for the community.

“This exciting collaboration between two of Illinois’ leading academic institutions and the Army Research Lab has the power to catalyze scientific research and address our society’s most pressing challenges,” Emanuel said. “When great minds come together around audacious goals, the possibilities are limitless. I look forward to witnessing the discoveries that result from this dynamic new partnership.”

Rauner said he believes that the partnership between the two world-renowned universities would be an exciting development for the state of Illinois. He said that with the state’s growing network of technology development and innovation the collaboration was extraordinary.

“It represents an extraordinary collaboration of talent and resources and portends extraordinary solutions for some of society’s most challenging concerns,” Rauner said. Ald. Sophia King (4th) and State Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) were also in attendance.

According to the universities, the primary goal of the partnership for both institutions is to develop and commercialize groundbreaking technology, drive the formation of startup companies and other links to industry. The areas of focus that helped bring the institutions together were advanced analytics and advanced materials, both are key strengths of the universities.

According to Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, the 280,000 square foot research and lab facility, which from the rendering appears to stand about 28 stories high, will be part of Phase II of the Harper Court project and will expect to host up to 100 faculty members, researchers and students in computer science, engineering, and materials science from the University of Illinois.

The facility, which is expected to be built by Wexford Science and Technology, will also have wet labs and computational space.

The project expects to break ground in 2018 with the possibility of being completed in 2020.

Hyde Park residents voice concerns at Antheus, MAC property meeting in April

Tensions were high on Thursday night April 13, as representatives from MAC Property Management, its parent company Antheus Capital and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) hosted a public meeting for residents of the Hyde Park community to update them on its 250 unit, 28 story building proposal for the corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue.

About 40 community members attended the meeting, which was held at East Park Tower, 5242 S. Hyde Park Blvd. For most of the meeting residents raised concerns such as parking, zoning, apartment views and future living expenses. Their concerns involved Antheus and MAC’s entire project, which includes the 5242 S. Hyde Park Blvd. building, the rezoning of the structure on the northeast corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue and the proposed building for the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue.

During the meeting, Antheus and MAC representatives presented architectural renderings with 3D images of the new façade proposed for the northeast corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue and the proposed building for the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Cornell Avenue.

“I think it’s going to put serious pressure on parking in the area,” Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman said. “It will seriously impact residents of Hyde Park.”

A few residents said they liked the idea of drawing new people to the neighborhood but did not like that the community was informed of the changes so late in the process.

Hyde Park resident Gregory Sain said high quality management should be provided for all properties managed by MAC.

“When you put new buildings up you can’t neglect the ones that were already built,” Sain said. “There has to be a balance in amenities.”

Sain MAC’s existing properties may lessen in value if they are neglected for the sake of the new properties.

During the open comments session at the meeting there were several spirited debates between community members and Antheus and MAC representatives that were often mediated by Hairston.

City’s first Passive House built in Hyde Park hit the market in October

The Kenwood Passivhaus (or Passive House), the first in the city of Chicago, has been fully renovated and hit the market in the month of October.

Although neighbors would like the passive house concept, some would express their concerns with the not so passive home restoration process.

According to a past issue of the Herald, the Passivhaus Institute was started about 25 years ago in Germany and builds houses to specific standards using green building methodology.

The term “passive” comes from the lack of a need for heating equipment.

According to the Passive House Institute, there are over 30,000 Passive House buildings around the world. There are certified Passive Houses in Urbana, Ill., and in River Forest, Ill.

As of July 2017, the Kenwood home passed all its rough inspections, said Liz Kuehn, tour coordinator of in a written statement. Making it the first Passivhaus Institute certified building in Chicago.

The energy efficiency features that make the Kenwood house a Passive House include an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) that acts as the “lungs” of the house, retaining the energy so that 85 percent of the energy stays inside the home and triple-paned windows that seal in air and heat. Roxul insulation used throughout a majority of the house also improves the energy efficiency of the home. With these features, the house has a 90 percent reduction in dust, pollen, mold, legionella and bacteria.

U. of C.’s Rubenstein Forum Center approved by the city in June

The Chicago Plan of Commission approved University of Chicago’s proposal to build a 90,000 square feet, state of the art institutional project along the historical Midway Plaisance back in June.

The building, which will be called “The Rubenstein Forum Center,” 1201 E. 60th St., will be named in honor of University Trustee and alumnus, David M. Rubenstein, JD’ Class of 73, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, in recognition of his ongoing generosity to the university. According to the university’s website, the Rubenstein Forum will be a place of intellectual, institutional and educational exchange.

The project developers are “Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R),” an internationally based firm with a U.S. office in New York, and will include a two-story base and narrow 165-foot tower with entrances north and south to open the main lobby, a space for informal interactions, a restaurant, and the building’s largest meeting space—tentatively named the “University Room,” where large lecture’s, panel discussion’s and seated dinners will take place. The area will accommodate up to 600 people.

The project will also include a tower pair meeting room designed to create interior “neighborhoods,” with informal spaces. That will be devoted to small, intimate and academic symposia, with the potential to add larger conferences and meeting room space in the near future.

Vue53 Apartments earns full occupancy and LEED Silver certified in October

The Vue53 Apartments, 1330 E. 53rd St., reached an important milestone on Oct. 19, for accomplishing full occupancy and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification status.

According to Joe Valerio, principal of Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, the building is now 100 percent occupied and are proud to be LEED certified by the US Green Building Council.

“I think reaching full occupancy was great,” Valerio said about the building’s new status. “We are now LEED Silver.”

According to Valerio, the building was required to meet six specific criteria set by the US Green Building Council organization to qualify for LEED Silver certification status. The criteria for certification were, site development, water, energy, materials, indoor air quality, and innovations.

Blackstone Library renovations and repairs

The Blackstone Library, 4904 S. Lake Park Ave., received renovations and repairs back in June after several cracks and leaks were reported in the building’s interior and exterior surface. The building repairs consisted of 100 percent tuck-pointing of the limestone, coping, chimney and other miscellaneous repairs.

The foundation repairs consisted of waterproofing and roofing repairs.

The Interior repairs consisted of renovations of the lobby, children’s area, adult reading room, periodicals room, staff break room and restrooms.

“We are very happy to see repairs done,” said Brenda Sawyer, president of the Friends of Blackstone Library organization. “There are much needed repairs for both the interior and exterior of the building.”

Harper Court reaches full leasing capacity

The University of Chicago announced Wednesday, Dec. 27, that Harper Court is now at full leasing capacity after its final tenant Vanille Patisserie opened Dec.1.

Harper Court, a joint project established several years ago between the University of Chicago, the city of Chicago, local officials and the community, is a mixed-use development that was completed in 2013.

The 223,775 square foot, LEED-certified office and retail property now includes a mix of retail, restaurant, hospitality, cultural and fitness tenants, including Aloha Poke Co., AT&T, Chipotle, CONNECT Gallery, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Hyatt Place Hotel, Ja’ Grill, Jolly Pumpkin Pizzeria & Brewery, LA Fitness, Native Foods, NoteworthyNotes, Obama Foundation Library, Porkchop, Roti Modern Mediterranean, Sir & Madame, Starbucks, ULTA, Vanille and VILLA.

Since opening, Harper Court has become an active community hub where residents and visitors shop, dine, exercise and participate in cultural activities. Its L-shaped internal drive is the location for a variety of community events including the Harper Court Summer Music Series, the Downtown Hyde Park Farmers Market, the Hyde Park Flea Vintage Market, Hyde Park Holly-Day and other events.