Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Psst! You can talk about Village Center now!

posted by Peter Rossi

For several years, there have been rumors that Antheus Capital (owners of the Village Shopping center at Lake Park Avenue and Hyde Park Boulevard) was interested in replacing the run-down shopping center with a combination residential and commerical development.

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.

Elevation from Kenwood Academy Grounds

Along Lake Park Ave at Night

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

Given the massive capital requirements, the development is to be attempted in two phases. Phase I will construct the "bench" along Lake Park and the interior parking and retail space, leaving most of the existing buildings along Harper occupied by current tenants. Phase II would add the tower and new retail spaces immediately to the south.

Cross-Section Viewed from South

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!


Anonymous said...

Awesome! I love the looks of the tower. Maybe we can finally get some decent national retailers in here.

Peter Rossi said...

dream on!

at the TIF meeting, one NIMBY asked his pointed question -- how many local retailers would be in the development.

Basically, it will not be a go unless he can get some pretty serious national trade in there.

here's hoping for the best

Anonymous said...

What kinds of stores would folks like to see in here?

Here's my wish list:
- Apple Store
- Godiva
- Crate & Barrel
- Movie theater (AMC or whomever)
- Argo Tea
- H&M
- Filene's Basement

No more hair salons, no more dollar stores.

Elizabeth Fama said...

I'm interested in how the Studio Gang vision for this space is so different from the "historically inspired" Romero Cook design for Harper Court.

chicago pop said...

how many local retailers would be in the development

Are there enough "local retailers" in Hyde Park to fill a barrel? I don't see too many local folks jumping to start up hypothetical local businesses that should be included in this development.

But come on, say the old-timers, we need local businesses -- like, uh, like ... um, like Powell's? But that's a chain ... Wait, er, like Mellow Yellow? Yeah! OK, um, like, how about another Medici? But that's a chain, too, and they make more money downstate in Normal...Or, maybe a curio shop with trinkets made in China?

chicago pop said...

I'm interested in how the Studio Gang vision for this space is so different from the "historically inspired" Romero Cook design for Harper Court.

Me too ... kind of like the problem of who gets to decorate the dorm room -- usually the first person there puts up their posters. I can't imagine the faux-romana Romero Cook design going up next door to this once it's built.

Richard Gill said...

Great report, Peter. I will just add a few things that were said at the July 14 meeting.

It was announced that there will be further discussion of this project August 18, 6:30PM at the Hyde Park Art Center.

No groans or howls of protest came from the audience when the developer said it's a goal of the project to increase density along Lake Park Avenue. This is a victory in itself. Not too long ago, "density" was the eighth word that George Carlin couldn't have uttered, at least not in this neighborhood.

Fifteen percent of the condo units are to be affordable housing ... a concession to Alderman Preckwinkle, no doubt. The units may be designed in way to appeal to older residents.

Rezoning will be required, from B3.2, which sets an 80-foot height limit, to C2.5.

Bill Michael, the UofC's AVP for Student Life was at the meeting, accompanied by some UofC students who had been asked to comment on student concerns about basic amenities in the neighborhood. They cited a lack of several things, especially a 24-hour diner, basic clothing at student-friendly prices, and late night hangout venues.

On balance, the development presentation was well received by the TIF council and the audience. Peter's right...the NIMBYs will ooze out of the woodwork at some point...but I got the impression that there has been a real change in community attitude (for the better). Now, if there can just be some shovels in the ground.

Also at the meeting, Hyde Park Produce announced they are opening a cafe in the store's former location. Sort of a sushi and deli place, as I understood it.

HistPresD said...

As for where some of the TIF dollars have gone, the SBIF (Small Business Improvement Fund) has been doing projects along the 53'rd street corridor. I run that program for the City at a non-profit called Somercor. Chant received a grant, Kimbark Laundry spruced up their interior, Cedars is in process, the old HP Produce building got tuck-pointed, and 3 Pillars is going to do some work. So, not huge projects, but good incremental improvements. The SBIF is fairly easy to access, but getting TIF’s and Streamlined TIF’s done is very difficult. For businesses in that TIF district, the SBIF is a no brainer, up to $150,000 in grants. The catches are that it is a repayment grant, so businesses need to come up with the money up front, but it can be for any permanent improvement to the buildings.

EdJ said...

It's nice to know that some of the money is being used to fix up structural parts of 53rd Street. It's too bad that it's not being used to actually bring in new businesses. But that might bring in people from outside Hyde Park and we can't have that.

The muted reaction from the NIMBYs is good, but I wonder if they're just playing possum.

It would take the Olympics to bring in the stores listed by Greg. That and a new majority taking charge in the neighborhood.

Interesting to see the HPKCC listing the Hyde Park Progress blog now as "Connected to Hyde Park Majority?"

chicago pop said...

That "Hyde Park Majority" thing was a blog that seems not to have ever gotten off the ground -- showed up after the 53rd St. visioning workshop last December (2007), but then stalled. I think that's where the HPKCC's inventory left it.

The NIMBY reaction to this project may be lessened by the fact that it's not in anyone's immediate backyard -- Kenwood, Harper Court, the tracks, and McDonald's, then some student housing to the west along 51st St.

So the folks who have ants in their pants about McMobil may be happy to see everything get dense somewhere else.

It's a great idea in a lot of ways -- one positive is that it will bring a lot of public eyes to the area directly across from Kenwood Academy, which will help control the crowds after school gets out, maybe reducing the need for that police surveillance camera.

EdJ said...

I like my literal interpretation better. I prefer to think of us as the majority anyway.

chicago pop said...

Right on.

Elizabeth Fama said...

When we're in the majority we get to hang up our blogging hats.

Zig and Lou said...

Would that not make it a blogority?

Liz Schleeper said...

Elizabeth or Peter--I hope that you can contact me. I am working with CPS students in a study of Hyde Park the next 2 wks. We are studying neighborhoods and are interested in the issues here. I hope to speak with you Monday if that's possible lizschleeper[at]cox.net