Development Hot Topics-General background and concerns
Including Community Planning, Growth Management and Preservation issues

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a Chicago neighborhood association since 1949,
Hyde Park's premier website, and the Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee (Chair and writer Gary Ossewaarde).
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The other Hot Topics Community Issues sections: Accessibility. Affordability. Development Projects.
Quality. Schools. University of Chicago
See reports of HPKCC's 2009 forum and survey of what neighbors think Hyde Park will be like in ten years and how to manage coming change.

Our Development homepage has the links to the big and small stories, analysis, vision studies and reports (including the VISION exercises and reports), and the work of the HPKCC Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee and also links to the work of Southside Preservation Action Committee (for which HPKCC is fiscal agent), Coalition for Equitable Community (of which HPKCC is a part), and other allies.
History and Preservation homepage
has material on relationships between development and preservation or restoration or zoning. Find also there links to the Urban Renewal years and a development timeline from the 1950s to the present.
Find more material and links in our Zoning homepage and our homepage on the 53rd St. TIF District.

Harper - Development Hot specific.

Hyde Park Attributes, Planning, and the 53rd St. TIF Council

For a mature and quite well built out neighborhood about 5 miles from Chicago's core, there are a fair number of moderately sizable sites, about half of them cleared, that have been proposed for planned use redevelopment. But Hyde Park has been undergoing rapid or low-key redevelopment and structure stock renewal since the 1950s.

March 30, 2010, the firm of Klein and Hoffman, hired by the University, began simple facade repairs and evaluation of need for further facade work for the Herald and Theater buildings. It the latter is not too extensive and expensive, they will proceed to further work then remove the scaffolding, which was generally considered an eyesore.

An ordinance has been proposed to use 20% of the total TIF money for affordable housing. Read draft in pdf (relevant for particular TIF districts- subsections e, i, j). Read more about in Affordable Housing Information page. WORD IS THAT MAYOR DALEY WANTS TO TAKE TIF MONEY TO PLUG THE BUDGET HOLE.

Walgreen's on 55th and Lake Park seeks a liquor license- technically change in zoning from B1 to B3 to allow more stores with more uses in the Hyde Park Shopping Center. To Comment on petition of Lake Park Associates contact /North Star Trust #1046 500 W. Madison Ste 3150 Attn D. McKinley 312 609-7962.

Neighborhood-wide planning is minimal and has been in recent decades (since Urban Renewal) except for general forums held mainly by HPKCC and including on zoning reform, but in the past two years there has been a set of Vision workshops for the 53rd Street-Lake Park Avenue-Harper Court business district. These were held collaboratively including with lead from the 53rd Street Commercial Redevelopment TIF (tax increment financing) District Advisory Council and included detailed public input into the Harper Court Area redevelopment. And there have been and a series of master plans for the University of Chicago campus and for most of our the parks. Several persons and groups active in the community have proposed development of more formal overall and sector plans and a full rezoning of the neighborhood in accord with recommendation of the 2004 revised Chicago Zoning Ordinance. Some of this lack may change with announcement of the UC-city Mem. of Understanding and the Woodlawn Choice Neighborhood federal grant. And there are ongoing topical planning for South Lakeshore Transit Corridor, Second Step housing and homelessness, and corridor planning for Stony, Cottage, 63rd, 55th, 53rd, 47th and....

Surveys showed some of drawbacks in getting the level of demand-for-presence by retailers that would propel new development: Parts of what would be our catchment are taken up by Lake Michigan and large parks, market surveys lump HPK in with very low income and very low population and density surrounding neighborhoods-- these neighborhoods also have an advantage of relatively cheap land (especially since the Olympic bid up is gone), and there is a growing willingness of shoppers to go longer distance for the kinds and quality of goods and stores they seek or to shop online. Finally, our retail customers and their interests are a very diverse lot-- a fact on which some retailers thrive, other fall. Ironically, the Lake and lakefront and large parks are among Hyde Park's great assets, along with the anchor University of Chicago and its staff and our stable, diverse and attractive housing stock of relatively high values, and the local population's diversity, relatively high disposable income, and high level of education.
More? Visit Hyde Park Profiles page.

Very important and instrumental in planning and progress since its establishment 1999-2001 has been the 53rd Street Commercial Redevelopment TIF (tax increment financing) District and its Advisory Council to the Alderman. (53rd St. TIF District News homepage. TIF bugets- city Dept. Comm. Planning website, but see also our TIF Annual Reports/Budgets page. Recent TIF Council meetings news.

(Some residents sought an elected oversight body, the city wanted no council, the compromise was an alderman-appointed council to advise the alderman--which makes it vulnerable should a new alderman be elected, and subcommittees composed of Council members and community residents.) There was controversy at the start, since it took some stretching to find the criteria under which the 53rd-Lake Park business district qualified to have a TIF, and there have been criticisms of other TIFs in Chicago. This TIF was limited to infrastructure and streetscape support, facility improvements to schools and parks, workforce development (such as the Cara CleanSlate program that trains persons with difficult backgrounds in work skills through street cleanup and other services), and business facade and furniture guideline development or funding for business improvements. A major purpose was to more parking (so far unable to be accomplished) and major improvements to the then recently established Canter Middle School (major work was done, but so far an addition has not been achieved). The TIF and its committees did major vetting of all development proposals and their plans for the district, with recommendations mostly respected (see concerns in the Hot Development Topics- #11 below) and did three public visioning exercises with professionals that focused on 53rd St. as a whole, Harper Court Area, Kimbark Plaza, and Dorchester Commons. The TIF has about $5 million in its coffers now and has spent modestly, a few hundred thousand.

Concerns about the TIF (overstated here?) are largely that 1) It has not accomplished the objectives that the community bought into, such as a parking garage and separately addition to Canter and that its accomplishments have been modest-- in part because the revenue growth has been smaller than anticipated partly because the other objective, bringing in major new retail development, largely didn't happen on a large scale. 2) The advisory council has largely been a tool of the Alderman, perhaps being a reason residents have only attended the "town halls" when there was something controversial or exciting on the agenda. 3) The council's continuance and strength is dependent on the will of whoever is alderman at the time. The current alderman is running for another office. 4) The city makes noises that it would like to take TIF money for other uses and it also is unclear whether money that now can be transferred only to another touching TIF.
More, including TIF council meeting records, maps- start with TIF News homepage.

Process and Residents' Concerns

It must be stated upfront that Hyde Parkers are a watchful, often contentious bunch, some of whom love to go to meetings. Get two Hyde Parkers together, you may get three opinions. And they expect public process on issues and above all new development-- some think too much process that discourages developers and slows things down until either naysayers win or there is an economic downturn or political change and the projects die. Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference has always stood for strong public process including to the degree feasible, full and honest disclosure, public study, and meaningful opportunity for input. The Conference usually prefers to serve as a clearing house, inviting conversations small to neighborhood wide rather than either an advocate or a policy decider. There are exceptions such as when we were asked by the Alderman and formed a committee in 2008 to reach a consensus on resolving planning issues for Kenwood Community Park. There's a point, however, when decisions need to be taken and we speak up for that and for ideas that have broad consensus rather reflecting the interest only a localized minority.

There has been for in recent years an especially strong divide over urgency and type of redevelopment, especially of shopping complexes like Harper Court and other spaces beloved by some quite as they are, thank you. Most of the writers in the Hyde Park Progress blog are strong supporters of development, often of upscaling of the neighborhood and also of that other contentious point, density. These often align with the city's or University's plans or seek University, business community, and elected official buy-in to improvements or changes and new things they would like to see. They tend to be impatient of holding out for refinements that are less intrusive or preserve amenities-- viz Promontory Point shoreline. A different set point to collateral damage that often accompanies changes, whether a major development or the opening of a street to two-way traffic, such 57th between Stony Island and Lake Park--which has led to real donnybrooks among neighbors. And seldom is the contention greater than if the change might affect traffic or especially availability of parking. It seems that every proposal for East Hyde Park, and for nearly every other part of the neighborhood, hangs on parking and traffic. And of course this is usually what arguments over density are boiled down to.
Another issue that plays a similar role, sometimes most think beyond reason, is anything (proposal or zoning change) that might allow or increase liquor sales.
Recent examples were on 55th, 53rd, and S. Hyde Park Blvd. An ongoing sore spot often cited is problems (real but esp. perceived) with a spot on South Shore Drive acerbated by use of the adjacent park lot for late night carousing.

Most on both sides of these divides agree they want to grow retail and other "options" including dining, entertainment... regardless of exactly what retail or options they want. It also seems that most in both camps-- although with differences of priority optimism about ease and success, want growth to happen in ways that all our very diverse customers and institutions (including in our larger targeted or actual market area) will feel serves their interests, and in a way that enhances rather than diminishes community character and cohesion, ease of access and parking, and affordability-- including affordability to businesses and income and age groups feeling pressure on their ability to stay here. (Note: While the majority of businesses displaced from Harper Court and Harper Theater found space they could afford locally, this has been very difficult to achieve and affordable space may become more scare as more retail space is developed-- and who will be able to afford the new spaces?)

We do look over our shoulders at what the impacts and import might be of infill and development in surrounding neighborhoods with cheaper land, and opening of somewhat more distant shopping and entertainment mega complexes.

There is general discouragement at so many vacant (cleared) retail lots or "brown-paper vacancies" in visible locations being readied for development. giving hope for the future.

Many also ask, when will there be developments for them, such as new affordable senior or middle class housing.

Some look at likelihood of development likelihood, at least in a while, to the north including the Cottage Grove corridor and west of Washington Park, where the University has purchased-- it says as much as a 50 year land hedge as to promote strategic redevelopment. Will new development outside curb the changes for retail re-creation in Hyde Park?

One cannot leave a discussion of concerns without bringing the Preservation issue into the equation, and this includes the University's bifurcated approach to the issues. Preservation sentiment, activism and documentation are strong here. Indeed, Chicago preservationism was in part born here when a stand was taken at the height of Urban Renewal against tearing down Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House. Preservation is often an issue that gets pulled in and then assumes a life of its own, much as with parking. Of course, preservation, keeping built memory, and whether the best change is not to restore or adaptively reuse are matters and options that have to be explored when a change to serve a new or expanded need or provide something felt to be needed comes along. Preservation can mean that something is thought to have intrinsic value and so should be kept or that it contributes to a neighborhood's and block's character. It can also be a red herring for "nimby" or blocking a project for another reason. Doctors Hospital is a project where preservation was a very real issue but not the driving force for the opposition. With the original project gone, nearly everyone is resigned to loss of the structure regardless of what and whether another land use is proposed. Actually, it is NOT true that "preservationists" or "preservationism" have blocked any significant project in Hyde Park in recent decades except some (but not all) developments or changes to existing structures in the South Kenwood city-designated Historic District, and for a controversy over housing the University bought on Drexel Blvd. that have a Landmarks Illinois preservation easement (and that hasn't played out yet).
A specific current worry is how much and what will be preserved/restored in the Chicago Theological Seminary buildings between University and Woodlawn north of 58th St.
Preservation related matters begin with and are linked from our History and Preservation homepage. HPKCC is proud to work with its new committee, Southside Preservation Action Fund, which provides small emergency funds for board up et al for historic properties and funds research and documentation of historic properties or matters. We are also proud to work with the Hyde Park Historical Society.

So what's going forward?

The heat is off for a while--and maybe that's why there is not as much of a "development as hot topic" right now-- but expectation is that this dog won't go way. Reasons for ease-off include the recession, widespread glut of housing (especially condo conversion) (even if there are not that many foreclosures or residential or retail vacancies here), and loss of the Olympic bid. Virtually no retail development has gone forward. But the University of Chicago and also Antheus/MAC Properties and the business community are committed to moving forward with development where it makes sense. Regarding Antheus, the Lake Village proposal looks like it may go forward, even before there is new construction in Harper Court?

As for older structures (before 1990), residents were generally glad to see that the 47th Lake Pointe Shopping Center formerly the 47th Co-op (shuttered in 2005) will finally be occupied by a grocer, though with some disappointment that no store with merchandise not available here was or could not be recruited. Opinion is mixed on the rehabilitations underway by MAC, many fearing that upscaling and MAC's alleged monopoly position will trump the value of timely fix-up of much of the housing and commercial space stock (forestalling the kind of widespread deterioration that happened in the 1930s and '40s). Restoration of Kenwood mansions continued, although there are some failed attempts sitting there.

In the small residential construction development, plans for two rather than one houses in the Kenwood Historic District were blocked by widespread objection and city skepticism while conversion of a mansion to two condos is likely to go forward (Chicago Zoning Committee hears January 12, 2010). For large residential, it has long been considered that new large rental buildings are not economic here, while large new condo buildings will have to wait to see what future demand is. Most promising and being actively pursued by MAC Properties is upgrade of small and large older, often historic rental buildings.

See reports of HPKCC's 2009 forum and survey of what neighbors think Hyde Park will be like in ten years and how to manage coming change.

Return links: Home. Hot Topics home. Development Hot Topics-specific. Site contents.