Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harper Court: Commercial Death Trap

What would you say if someone told you that their business had experienced a 60% jump in profitability after changing locations? Probably: "Ah, you finally moved out of Harper Court!"

That's exactly what happened to Toys Et Cetera since moving in February 2007. Not only has the move increased revenues for the toy store, it has generated a spill-over effect for neighboring merchants at its new location on 55th St. To quote The Herald ("New tenants in shopping center spark sales", July 25, 2007):

Antwan Chandler, manager for Wesley's Shoe Corral, 1506 E. 55th St., said since Toys Et Cetera moved in there has been a dramatic improvement in business.

So here we have a small business that obviously has solid fundamentals, solid enough to give a boost to its neighbors. What can we learn from this?

Harper Court is the Bermuda Triangle for small businesses. What tenant is going to look at the Toys Et Cetera example and want to locate there? Harper Court currently has all the features needed to scare away shoppers: it is run-down, its tenants have very little relation to each other (someone visiting to buy a burrito might not necessarily want to rent a bike or arrange for a catered event), and its design is outdated and unappealing. Frankly, it's always a little scary to walk around the weird "sunken courtyard," one of those bizzare public space concepts from the 60s that should never have happened.

There is a future for Harper Court, but in its present incarnation it is a commercial death trap.


Tonks said...

Three cheers for Hyde Park Progress and a little sanity in the ongoing dialogue of dragging Hyde Park into the, well, 20th century!
We don't need another cell phone store. We don't need another bank. We don't need another shuttered building.
We need reasonable development that includes parking, that produces strong examples of architecture. We need amenities!
I know it sounds evil to some ears, but chain stores or restaurants aren't always bad: They provide jobs, can draw business to other stores and restaurants nearby (witness the new life breathed into the Hyde Park Shopping Center with the addition of Home Made Pizza Co. and Toys Etc.).
The foot traffic from these stores will surely lift What the Traveler Saw when it opens.
Let's face it: Harper Court and 53rd Street are a wasteland, both creepy and barren.
Just what are we trying to preserve by blocking possible development?

chicago pop said...

Hey, if it sounds evil to some ears down here, that probably means it's a good idea! Nobody should have to justify having a restaurant in the neighborhood, and like you I'm an enthusiastic patron of Home Made Pizza!

I'm with you re: 53rd St. I'm looking forward to the makeover of the Harper Theater building starting this fall. 53rd could be much more than it is...hopefully the redevelopment will be a start.