Tuesday, May 13, 2008

U of C Buys Harper Court

posted by chicago pop

See both the internal University circular and the press release that follow:

____________________________________________________________________


To: Members of the University Community
From: David Greene, Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Re: Harper Court announcement

I am pleased to report that the University has purchased Harper Court from the Harper Court Arts Council. The $6.5 million purchase is part of a joint project of the University and the City of Chicago to revitalize the retail environment on 53rd Street.

As President Zimmer indicated in his letter to the University community in March, at a time when the University is preparing for significant investments in academic programs and support for faculty and students, we also recognize the need to continue strengthening our surrounding communities. We are committed as part of this process to supporting economic development, including retail and commercial development in Hyde Park.

The Harper Court project, which was announced by Alderman Preckwinkle at yesterday’s meeting of the Advisory Council for the 53rd Street TIF (Tax-Increment Financing) District, will link Harper Court and the adjacent City Parking Lot as the site of a significant new commercial and retail development. We are grateful for Alderman Preckwinkle’s leadership in making this project a reality.

The University and the City have agreed that a comprehensive plan for this property represents a positive step toward creating a vibrant commercial corridor for Hyde Park that has been the subject of ongoing community discussions and surveys.

Going forward, we will pursue a City-mandated process designed to attract good ideas, high-quality developers, and active community input. The process will encourage developers to propose the best mix of uses for the site.

More information about the purchase and development of this property is available on the University’s website at http://news.uchicago.edu/news.php?asset_id=1363.

I look forward to updating you on the Harper Court project and encourage your engagement in the public input process.

____________________________________________________________________

May 13, 2008

The University of Chicago has purchased Harper Court from the Harper Court Arts Council for $6.5 million as part of a community planning process to revitalize the retail environment on 53rd Street.

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward) announced the joint project between the University and the City of Chicago at the May 12 meeting of the Advisory Council for the 53rd Street TIF (Tax-Increment Financing) District. It is the result of agreements between the City, Harper Court Arts Council and the University. The University of Chicago will lead the City-mandated development process, which will be designed to attract good ideas, high-quality developers and ongoing community input.

The first step of the development process will be to seek qualified development teams, who will submit detailed proposals for the best mix of uses for Harper Court and the City Parking Lot.

“I have brought together the parties—the City, the Harper Court Arts Council and the University—to facilitate this purchase and partnership. The project is part of an ongoing effort to explore redevelopment in the TIF district, which has already had much success, including bringing high-quality retail and entertainment businesses to the area,” Preckwinkle said.

University President Robert Zimmer described the University’s goals in the project: “The University has interest in fostering a lively and positive environment for residents and businesses in Hyde Park and beyond. Redeveloping 53rd Street is a priority identified by both campus and neighborhood communities. This project is representative of the University’s continuing efforts—in education, employment, health care and safety—to contribute to a vibrant and livable community.

“Ideally, this project will be reflective of the distinctive nature of Hyde Park and represent the best of Chicago’s mid-South Side.”

The Harper Court Arts Council will use funds from the purchase to continue its efforts in support of the arts and business development in Hyde Park and neighboring communities. The Harper Court Arts Council is the successor organization to the Harper Court Foundation, which opened the first shops in Harper Court in 1965. At the time, music and arts-related businesses dominated the commercial space, but a different mix of retailers gradually became tenants.

The shopping center now has 23 stores and restaurants, as well as a veterinary clinic. Current renters have received notification, and discussions have been held about timeline and available resources to help with relocation. Most Harper Court shops have month-to-month leases; these tenants have been assured that their leases will extend at least through 2008.

The University and the City have agreed that a comprehensive plan for developing Harper Court and the adjacent City Parking Lot represents a positive step toward creating the commercial corridor for Hyde Park, which has been the subject of ongoing community discussions and surveys.

Susan Campbell, the University’s Associate Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, described recent community efforts to re-imagine 53rd Street: “There has been a lot of good work done by a number of organizations. The 53rd Street Vision Workshop, the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, the TIF Council, the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and others have all made valuable contributions. Surveys and discussions have helped to build a shared vision.

“Going forward, we seek a productive dialogue that helps to anticipate and address outstanding issues and potential community priorities and needs.”

The public will be engaged through the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council. Prior to selection of a developer, the University and the City would present the preferred proposals to the public through the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council.

“Community discussions and surveys have generated a set of broad guidelines for 53rd Street development,” said University Chief Financial Officer Nimalan Chinniah. “We want to encourage more outdoor activity, greater diversity in dining and retail, and an environment that has more trees and landscaping. Parking and easy access will also be important considerations, and the development should carry forward, in some manner, the original purpose of Harper Court.”

18 comments:

Greg said...

I can see "Save The Court" bumper stickers in our future...

I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. The way that property is currently used is awful.

Greg said...

I hate facade preservation: it always looks like some half-assed bastardization. I would have liked to see a theater in there again (I'll admit it), but since we can't have one, there's no point at all in trying to save the face of a dead building. They should just dynamite the thing and get it over with, start fresh

A good compromise satisfies nobody.

Elizabeth Fama said...

WHAT a piece of property to acquire for only $6.5 million. Hats off to whoever negotiated that.

chicago pop said...

I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with. The way that property is currently used is awful.

Me too.

Plus side, now there is one owner for the commercial property that wraps around from 53rd through to Harper Court, including the old Theater Building and the HC parking lot. May make it easier to think big.

Down side, the 53rd & Harper project has apparently fallen through, due partly to the redeveloper, and partly, it would seem, to the exorbitant rental rates that they were asking; these, I understand, are as high as they are in part because local preservationists (insert names here) insisted on keeping the facade of the Harper Theater as is.

I don't think the University is going to be kow-towing to the antiquarian lobby the way is has in the past, not if they think it has directly contributed to tanking the Harper Theater redevelopment.

chicago pop said...

Check this out, from Crain's: Michigan Avenue and other high-rent retail locations are hemorrhaging big-box stores as vacancy rates hit levels not seen since the recession of 91-92.

Where are they going? "neighborhood locations like the outskirts of Lincoln Park or the South Loop, where there's cheaper rent and more parking."

Mixed bag here, but it does present an opportunity for a space like Harper Court/53rd/Harper Theater if they play their cards right. Which means keeping the rent on those spaces competitive (why is this so hard in Hyde Park?), and taking the opportunity to increase square footage presented by the Harper Theater/Harper Court combo.

EdJ said...

I read in the Maroon that there may be a move away from the Doctor's Hospital site for the hotel. I wonder where this space might fit in to the overall plan for a hotel and increasing retail on 53rd. The Harper Court site would seem a little small for a hotel. Nothing like having visitors to increase foot traffic for retail.

nate said...

The part that leaves me scratching my head is that now the Harper Court Arts Council, whose future goals include "increasing involvement in the schools by directly providing artistic experiences for the kids in their schools or as field trips; increasing community involvement intergenerationally; and continuing to work toward greater financial independence," has 6.5 million dollars.

What.

Greg said...

now the Harper Court Arts Council...has 6.5 million dollars.

That seemed weird to me too. I don't know a lot about the arts council, but doesn't their existence kinda depend on the current existence of Harper Court (hence their name)? And did they float cash to the HCF when ownership was transfered to them? This whole thing has been really confusing over the last few years.

SR said...

Down side, the 53rd & Harper project has apparently fallen through, due partly to the redeveloper, and partly, it would seem, to the exorbitant rental rates that they were asking; these, I understand, are as high as they are in part because local preservationists (insert names here) insisted on keeping the facade of the Harper Theater as is.

Curious: At the TIF meeting I attended where the developers discussed the 53rd & Harper project, they said they’d decided to leave the facade up because it had been built so solidly it would have been very expensive to tear down (I think they said it would cost like $1 million to tear the building completely down, but I could be misremembering).

Advanced Analytics said...

So what really happens to the 6.5 million? Who has the say-so/control of that money?

chicago pop said...

At the TIF meeting I attended where the developers discussed the 53rd & Harper project, they said they’d decided to leave the facade up because it had been built so solidly it would have been very expensive [$1,000,000] to tear down

This figure ($1,000,000 to demolish a facade only) would make more sense if we had some idea of what the context was -- i.e., what did Brinshore and Baum have planned for the guts of the Theater building at the time, what other retailers they wanted to bring in, etc, and therefore how this compared to the other costs involved.

Standing alone, I'm not sure what to make of it.

As it stands, we know that trying to keep the Theater building as a Theater building didn't work; the University tried for 3 years under pressure of the Hyde Park Historical Society and Jack Spicer to find a tenant who would undertake the $9,000,000 renovations and work within the confined footprint of the structure, and failed.

At one point, Hank Webber told the Maroon that good tenants for the Herald Building strip on 53rd would take pressure off the problem of holding a vacant and unwanted Theater building; now, those smaller tenants for 53rd St. seem to have disappeared, making the Theater Building even less attractive and more of an albatross, for a movie house or anything else.

Going forward, I think the priority should be to find a tenant interested in the location, and figure out what to do with the building afterwards.

Stephen said...

This is good news to me.

However, I must admit, I still wish the Theatre could be restored and reused. I think it has a little more historical context than, i.e. Doctor's or St. Stephen's. These old movie houses are disappearing, and I'd like to see some remain.

Tom said...

This is interesting news. On a different note, will anyone be posting on the U of C's other big news, the new Milton Friedman Institute? This also has the ability to impact Hyde Park because it will be moving into the Seminary building and constructing a new home for the Seminary elsewhere (unclear if in Hyde Park or not). I'd love to hear what people have to say about this as well.

chicago pop said...

On a different note, will anyone be posting on the U of C's other big news, the new Milton Friedman Institute?

Don't know much more than what was circulated by Zimmer today (see below):

The Milton Friedman Institute will occupy buildings that currently house the Chicago Theological Seminary on the north side of 58th Street between Woodlawn and University. The University's purchase of these buildings, which may also house the Department of Economics, will enable the Institute to be centrally located between our main quadrangles and the Harper Center of the Graduate School of Business. The Seminary's main building (5757 S. University) will be renovated to respect its architectural and historic significance, as well as to create a home appropriate for the Institute and the Department of Economics, should the latter move there as well. As part of the purchase agreement, the University will construct a new home for the Seminary.

Stephen said...

Will this impact the Seminary Co-op? I'm not sure if that is the same building they are referencing.

chicago pop said...

That is indeed the same building.

My guess is that the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore would stay put, since they have such a close business relationship with the University. However, that may all depend on the rent set by the new landlord.

The Woodlawn Wonder said...

Jesus take the wheel...

What next?

nw said...

Re the Milton Friedman center in the current CTS building: CTS students and faculty have been told that the new building will be on the south side of the midway, I think at 60th/Dorchester. The purchase also includes McGiffert (sp?) Hall, the 60's former residence hall directly north of the Robie House on Woodlawn. I'm glad that the University does not intend to demolish the CTS building, though sad to see the work for justice that CTS has pursued in that space be replaced by an homage to neoliberalism - but would be happy to see McGiffert go.