At the 53rd Street TIF meeting held Monday (7/14), developer Eli Ungar was allowed to let the cat of the bag. The proposal is nothing less than stunning and represents the most ambitious project attempted in Hyde Park in more than 30 years. Ungar and associates propose a development of more than 500,000 sq ft with 170 residences, dozens of retail spaces and more than 500 parking spaces.
The development would cover the entire parcel, bordered along Lake Park Ave by a 10 story structure with retail on the bottom floors and 2-4 bedroom condos above. At the northwest corner of the property at Harper and Hyde Park Blvd sits a 24 story residential tower. Along Harper, south of the tower, would be small scale retail spaces. Between the tower at the west and the "bench" along Lake Park would be a transparent retail bank on Hyde Park Blvd that hides an interior parking structure.
Designed by Studio Gang (creators of Aqua in the Lakeshore East development and designers of the yet to be constructed Solstice on the Park in HP), the development features a very transparent look that goes out of its way to relate to the streetscape and hide parking from view. The transparency is designed to reduce the mass of the development which is considerable.
At 244 ft, the tower is sure to get local NIMBYs stirred up but fits rather nicely with the 51st and East Hyde Park area.
View from atop Blackwood Apts at 52nd and Blackstone
The development faces a number of steep challenges including: leasing the retail space and generating residential interest, some current tenants who are holding long term leases, garnering Alderman Toni Preckwinkle's support, and dealing with the usual nay-sayers who oppose change in our community.
It should be noted that this is the ONLY development of any size that is on the drawing board for our neighborhood. Harper Court redevelopment is nowhere in sight and the University-funded Harper Theatre development is dead in the water. Add this to the stalled high rise at 53rd and Cornell, no clear future for the Shoreland, and vacant Doctor's Hospital and McMobil properties and you really have a ghost town in the making.
Millions in University and public funds have gone down the rat-hole of improving HP retail and yet the only development in Hyde Park comes entirely from the private sector. I hope our elected officials understand where the future of our neighborhood lies and offer to help speed this through the necessary zoning changes required for a more than eight-story structure.
The development will proceed with no TIF funding. The 53rd street corridor is fast degenerating into a mass of cell phone stores, vacant storefronts, dollar stores and branch banks. One wonders where our TIF dollars have gone?
There will be those who scoff at the sheer audacity of this proposal in the midst of paralysis in the mortgage markets. Ungar is betting on the future of HP. Who knows, with a windfall from the Olympics, he may end up having the last laugh.
Make no little plans!