Wednesday, October 24, 2012
NYT Covers 53rd St. Redevelopment
CHICAGO — The University of Chicago is midway through what it characterizes as a “once in a generation” community redevelopment effort aimed at revitalizing 53rd Street, a blighted retail district several blocks north of its historic Hyde Park campus here.
The $250 million project includes Harper Court, a new 600,000-square-foot, mixed-use project at the corner of 53rd Street and South Lake Park Avenue, along with the renovation and restoration of the adjacent Harper Theater complex, which consists of a long-closed historic movie theater as well as retail and office space. In addition, the university is renovating several other nearby retail properties and is in the early stages of planning a second mixed-use project on a site it owns further up the street.
The aim, said David Greene, an executive vice president at the university, is to create something Hyde Park has not had in many years — a thriving commercial area. If successful, the university will be following what has become a well-worn path in recent years of urban colleges and universities serving as redevelopment engines for their surrounding communities. The University of Illinois at Chicago, for example, has spent much of the last decade building University Village, a new residential and commercial district adjacent to its downtown campus.
“It’s enlightened self-interest for us,” Mr. Greene said. “We’ve always been very competitive when it comes to providing a great intellectual community. But we found there was something missing when we looked at the quality of life for students and faculty who are used to the kinds of amenities you find in places New York, Boston and Palo Alto.”
Mr. Greene added that revitalizing 53rd Street is part of a larger effort by the university to rethink its relationship with the neighborhood, which sits on the lakefront about six miles south of downtown Chicago.
“Over the years and particularly in the 1950s and ’60s, there was a lot of development aimed at creating a barrier around the campus,” he said. “We’re now trying to reverse that trend.”
Will Burns, alderman for the Fourth Ward, which includes 53rd Street, said that the area “has historically been Hyde Park’s downtown, and these projects will help restore that vision.” He added that, “Hyde Park is not really a ward. It’s more of an anarcho-syndicalist collective, meaning that there are more community meetings than you can shake a stick at.”
Indeed, reviving 53rd Street has been a much-discussed neighborhood goal for several decades, but it did not really take off until the university spent about $9 million to acquire the Harper Theater complex in 2002 and the Harper Court site in 2008. “The initial impetus came from the city asking us to help out in terms of purchasing and redeveloping those properties,” said Mr. Greene.
Joseph Caprile, a senior vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle, a large real estate services firm here, who is familiar with the project, said that the university was in a great position to facilitate development in the area. “They have a sound endowment and sound real estate resources,” he said. “They’re also the ones who drive the users down there.”
The largest project, Harper Court, consists of a 150,000-square foot office tower, 74,000 square feet of retail space and a 133-room Hyatt Place Hotel. Harper Court is being constructed by a team of developers assembled by the university and the city.
The university is acting as its own developer for the remaining projects. The developer of all but the hotel component is Harper Court Partners, a partnership consisting of Chicago-based Vermilion Development and JFJ Development.
The hotel is being developed by Smart Hotels of Beachwood, Ohio, and Olympia Development of Portland, Me. The lead equity investor is Los Angeles-based Canyon Johnson Urban Funds, a partnership consisting of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors and the former basketball star, Magic Johnson. The $130-plus million project also received about $23 million in city tax increment financing funds.
Posted by chicago pop at 10:51 AM