To Harper Court Sale & Early. Harper Court Story/History and 2 cache sub pages .Community ideas/principles for HCt and RFP. Gary Ossewaarde rfp draft & letters. June 2006 Special issue of the Conference Reporter- all on Harper Ct. Neighbors to Save Harper Court Group. Development. Community News. HPKCC News.

HPKCC and Harper Court:Positions and Reports
Open Letters from Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference to Harper Court Arts Council and Foundation, February 24 and March 17, 2006, and Winter 2006 Reporter; Reports on HPKCC April 11 meeting and April 25 Workshop; invitation to arts council

This page is presented as a community service by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website, Contact us. Email the President. The Conference is dedicated to furthering informed community dialogue and inclusive decision making process, responsible development, and promotion of a diverse, secure, attractive, and caring community. Support our work, join the Conference and its committees.

Be sure to see the Conference document, Principles to Guide the Future of Harper Court, by M.L. Rantala and George Davis, in the Harper Court Ideas and Principles page. A portion is presented here, below.


HPKCC board position and findings on Harper Court, and report to the TIF May 8 (see more in Letter May 10)

At its February and March meetings, the Board made it clear that it opposes the manner in which Harper Court Foundation and Arts Council have ignored their original public mission and public mission, indeed unethical practices, with regard to transfer and attempted sale of the shopping center.

At the May 4 meeting, the board, which had been serving in its capacity as a facilitator of community decision-making and a conduit of residents' views and ideas about the future of Harper Court, took its own position, which was conveyed by President Rumsey to the community as part of his report at the May 8 TIF Advisory Council meeting.

The Board position was on the core principle for the direction of redevelopment of Harper Court. (Note that the Conference has not to date taken a position on amount and type of physical redevelopment. At least some on the board have expressed reservations about the "field of dreams" assumption that if you build something, especially big, it will by itself attract the customers.)

George Rumsey advised the TIF Advisory Council meeting May 8 and a large audience there that the HPKCC board voted May 4 that:

HPKCC holds that Harper Court must retain and continue to carry out its original mission at least in part: Helping small businesses, including arts and artisan-based, to survive and grow in our community.

Rumsey noted that the Conference has not to date taken a position on amount and type of physical redevelopment, considering this premature.

Rumsey also read, from a Reporter extra edition combined with letter to the Herald, six principles that were constants in our forums and conversations with the community:


From May 2006 Special issue of the Conference Reporter:

The Conference in Action

Actions of Board Endorse Original Harper Court Mission

On May 4, 2006, the Board of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference voted 12 to 1 (2 abstentions) to endorse the need to preserve, in some form or manner, the original mission of the Harper Court Foundation: "the civic purposes of furthering the trade and economic development of the Hyde Park-Kenwood area in the City of Chicago and is environs, and promoting and assisting the growth and development of business concerns, including small-business concerns in said area" with special emphasis for "the continuation in the community of artisans, craftsmen, and educational, recreational and other services offered on a commercial basis, but of special cultural or community significance" (paragraph 5, Harper Court Foundation Articles of Incorporation, April 17, 1963).

In its three public meetings since the TIF meeting, the Conference has heard a variety of worthwhile opinions and ideas that deserve exploring. There have also been several constants:

  1. The original mission should be retained.
  2. The current tenants should be "helped" during any construction period.
  3. Any development must be appropriate for Hyde Park, and should preferably be appealing to a broad spectrum of the neighborhood: a "gateway" to 53rd street.
  4. any new development should be kept at a height consistent with 53rd Street.
  5. Adequate parking must be provided.
  6. Public space (including chess benches) is required.

Following lengthy discussions earlier this year with the Illinois Attorney General's Office of Charitable Trusts, the Conference raised several questions it hoped would be answered by the Arts Council. Five remain unanswered:

  1. What is the Council's idea of appropriate development for Harper Court?
  2. How are the Arts Council bylaws being revised to fit its new role?
  3. What is being done to make the Council board more representative of the community, especially the arts?
  4. What steps are being taken to eliminate conflicts of interests?
  5. What framework will be created to make decisions about the dissemination of funds from the sale?

Key Points

End of except from Conference Reporter

As organized and elaborated by board members M.L. Rantala and George Davis

The complete document, "Principles to Guide the Future of Harper Court", is in Harper Court Ideas and Principles page.

Economic Principles

Harper Court should continue the original mission and subsidize and encourage small and/or locally defined businesses.

Harper Court should continue the original mission and subsidize and encourage local artisan spaces.

Any new Harper Court development should be a mixed use development. The range of acceptable uses in various combinations included commercial, residential, office, entertainment, restaurants, and artisans).

Planning Principles

Public open space should be a key element of any new development or enhancement of the existing structure. Open space should act as an inducement to bring people to Harper Court both by providing "green" elements (courtyards, green landscaping) and providing space for outdoor activities such as the Farmer's Market, or festivals.

Harper Court should act as a catalyst for all types of public community activity including entertainment, cultural events and spontaneous gatherings.

Public parking should be enhanced and increased.

Redevelopment should be designed to integrate Harper court with 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue with the following features:

A low rise development is preferred.

Institutional Process

The Harper Court Arts Council should increase its board to provide representation of a broader group of community residents and arts groups.

A clearer plan for the distribution of funds to local arts groups needs to be defined.



February 24, 2006 HPKCC open letter and questions to the Arts Council

The following letter was sent by the President and Executive Committee of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference February 24, 2006 to the Board of the Harper Court Arts Council (in response to it's open letter published in the February 22, 2006 Hyde Park Herald) and to the Illinois Attorney General's Office, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Carol Bradford of the Hyde Park Historical Society, Hanna Frisch of Neighbors to Save, and the Hyde Park Herald. For background on the issues, refer to the Harper Court Sale page.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Board, Harper Court Arts Council

Dear Directors:

The HPKCC executive committee's discussions of the Harper Court Foundation and Harper Court Arts Council have included divergent points of view concerning the future of Harper Court, including a strong interest in the well-being of the current tenants and a general desire for substantial improvements for retail in Hyde Park. Our anxieties reflect the comments we have heard from many members of the community since the proposed sale was disclosed, sparking intense public attention and reaction. The fears of the community have become heightened as a result of the perception that the Harper Count Foundation and the Harper Court Arts Council decided to sell the property to a single developer without utilizing a process that permitted community input. And the reluctance, until now, of Foundation and Arts Council representatives to respond to community concerns raised serious questions with respect to potential conflicts of interests. The Conference is resolute that there be an open process that encourages community involvement.

The Conference supports responsible development in Hyde Park-Kenwood, and we ask that the Harper Court Arts Council endeavor to set a higher standard for community involvement. We look forward to hearing what changes the Arts Council has made or plans to make to its charter, council composition, and management to meet this goal. Most importantly the Conference has a number of questions related to the future sale process and how the community will participate:

1. What is the Council’s vision or idea for appropriate “development?” And how does this impact (short term and long term) the current tenants?

2. How did the Foundation (or Arts Council) find this developer? Why JDI? Was there a “Request for Proposals?” If not, why not?

3. Will there now be a public Request for Proposals? Will there be a period of public comment, as the University has done with Harper Theater?

4. How are the Arts Council's bylaws being revised to fit its new role?

5. Is there any one with an arts background or affiliation on the current Arts Council board? The head of the Illinois Office of Charitable Trusts explicitly has said that the board as currently constituted is inadequate and must be expanded to better represent the community. How is this to be done? What efforts are being made to interact with community arts groups such as the HP Art Center, Little Black Pearl, Muntu Dance, Mostly Music, the Chicago Ensemble, and the many other small performing and visual arts groups in the area?

6. Two officers of the Arts Council have affiliations with two neighborhood banks (potential financial agents of the sale?) and two members of the Board are affiliated with the University of Chicago (leaseholder and developer of other properties within the same block). What steps are you taking to eliminate possible conflicts of interest?

7. Finally, what sort of framework for making decisions about the dissemination of funds will be set in place? Will there be any public or third-party oversight, scrutiny, or accountability? Will any staff be paid from the funds, and will they have arts training and experience?

Thank you for finally responding to the community concerns over the future of Harper Court. We all look forward to your presentation and explanation on March 13 at the TIF meeting.

George W. Rumsey, President,
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference

on behalf of the Executive Committee:
Jay Ammerman, Senior Vice-President
James Withrow, Vice-President
M.L. Rantala, Vice-President
Jane Pugh, Treasurer
Irene Freelain, Treasurer
Gary Ossewaarde, Secretary

cc: Ms. Therese Harris, Office of Charitable Trusts, Office of the Attorney General
Alderman Toni Preckwinkle
Ms. Carol Bradford, Hyde Park Historical Society
Ms. Hanna Frisch, Neighbors to Save Harper Court
Hyde Park Herald



An Open Letter to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community, March 17 2006:

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference is committed to openness in community affairs. Within the past 18 months we have called for greater transparency when it was time to select a state senate replacement for Barack Obama, asked that the current meetings to choose a rehab plan for Promontory Point be open to the press and public, and requested that board members of the Harper Court Foundation explain their recent secret actions to the public.

Many members of the HPKCC board were at the March 13 TIF council meeting devoted to Harper Court. While Harper Court board members said in advance of the meeting that they would be answering questions, virtually all of the Conference's questions, submitted to them in advance and in writing, were conspicuously ignored. While board members of the Harper Court Arts Council said that they were listening, we were troubled that when it was repeatedly suggested that community groups be part of an open process to create a set of principles and help draft a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Harper Court property, the suggestion was summarily ignored.

We believe that is a mistake.

HPKCC wants community voices to be heard concerning the future of Harper Court. The Conference is asking everyone, including the Harper Court Foundation and Arts Council, to join us in a series of open meetings, where we will work together publicly and collaboratively to create a set of principles regarding the future of Harper Court and its proposed RFP.

We emphasize that, at all stages, members of the Harper Court boards will be invited and encouraged to participate. Our deliberations will be set up to be constructive and to draw upon the collective wisdom and experience of our community. We cannot force the Harper Court Arts Council to listen, but we can show them what a genuinely open process entails.

We plan to have our drafts available at the next TIF meeting on May 8. It will be a difficult task to get all this done so quickly while keeping the procedure open and inclusive. But we have no choice. Alderman Preckwinkle has asked the Harper Court board to be ready by May 8 to present its own set of principles and a draft RFP. If we want to ensure community members have a chance to be involved in a transparent process, we have to create the process ourselves.

Interested members of the community are encouraged to contact us with comments and suggestions. You can reach the Conference at 773-288-8343 or email

We would value your participation. Please watch for announcements of upcoming public meetings that will be listed in the Herald and posted on our website at

George W. Rumsey, President
M.L. Rantala, Vice President
George W. Davis, Director
on behalf of the Board of Directors
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference



From the Winter 2006 Conference Reporter: Debating the Future of Harper Court

On March 13, the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council held their bimonthly meeting. In place of regularly scheduled business, this meeting was devoted to a presentation by the Harper Court Arts council and its plans for the sale and re-development of Harper Court. This topic has generated considerable debate within the Hyde Park neighborhood and has been a major focus of the Conference board in the last three months. The board remains "open" to future plans for Harper Court, recognizing the need to improve the facilities, but is unanimous in its concern for the "process" employed by the Harper Court Arts Council.

Following lengthy discussions with the Illinois Attorney General's Office of Charitable Trusts, the Conference raised seven questions to be answered by the Arts Council:

  1. What is the Council's idea of appropriate development?
  2. Why was there no "Request for Proposals" (RFP)"
  3. Will there be a period of public comment?
  4. How are the Arts Council bylaws being revised to fit its new role?
  5. What is being done to make the Council board more representative of the community, especially of the arts?
  6. What steps are being taken to eliminate possible conflicts of interest?
  7. What framework will be create to make decisions about the dissemination of funds from the sale?

The Arts Council announced they will now follow a public RFP process, guided by Alderman Preckwinkle and the City's Department of Planning and Development. To date, they have failed to answer the other questions.

HPKCC hopes to see retail development in Hyde Park handled in a responsible, open manner, with broad community input. See for latest news about upcoming public forums on Harper Court.


Notes on the March 28 open invite discussion on Harper Court

About 20 attended the meeting, including Mary Anton from the Harper Court Arts Council and Alderman Preckwinkle and several HCt tenants. George Rumsey, President of HPKCC presided.

By Trish Morse of the HPKCC Board, modified:

Alderman Preckwinkle (TP): Asked for an "aggressive schedule" for the RFP. Parking lot included so it's a joint RFP of public and private land, so the Planning and the Law Departments of the city must sign off on it.

Jack Spicer: Where is the line defining the city part? Mark Johnson (MJ): The true line is the line of trees behind the Dixie Kitchen to the east.

Nancy Stanek [a tenant] (NS): Are these inextricably together? TP: Redevelopment teams would want to guarantee parking.

George Davis (GD): What is th e prerequisite of a PUD and why is the city involved here?
TP: Harper Court Foundation was not able to cast a wide net so the lawyer brought the buyer. The Planning Department casts a wide net. RFP will go to the Planning Dept. mailing lit of developers. A diverse pool of buyers. So all this is being done as a service to the Foundation.

George Rumsey (GWR): What is the legal standing of an RFP? Contract? Are there letters of intent, penalties, deposits with the bid? TP: Saw the RFP as a way to reach a broader pool of developers.
GD: Does it bind the foundation? TP: "It's always possible to reject all bids." Art Council has held one meeting with the Chicago Consulting Studio folks.

ML Rantala (ML): Bundling parking, so who decides it's ok for the city? TP: Department of Planning. They are doing it as a "favor to me." "I work very closely with the Department of Planning."

Mary Anton: This [HPKCC's organizing its own public meetings] is a parallel process. We have requested suggestions and not received any.
NS: No one has suggested bulldozing Harper Court but now I hear the bulldozers now that it's one land mass.
TP: Keeping the court can be one of the proposals. There are no plans for bulldozing.

GWR: This is supposed to be a meeting to plan 4/11 "vent" forum and 4/25 working groups for ideas about good development for the neighborhood.
TP: The Arts Council owns it and will decide what to do with it, though anyone can give advice, but ultimately it's their decision.

GWR: Have they met with the attorney general about rewriting their by-laws? TP: Know nothing about internal affairs.
GWR: Are they the group best to do this? Will they open their board to someone with actual arts background.
Mary Anton: We did ask for input through the e-mail site, we have defined a process, but no one dropped us a line, no one wrote, you just want a totally parallel process. TP: There was no response to the Arts Council offer for input at the TIF.

NS: Was there a public announcement? No one saw it. Mary Anton: There is a letter in the Herald this week, we asked for feedback at the TIF but the community could care less.
NS: Where is the statement of the actual terms?

Mark Johnson [who formerly ran the Foundation and center]: Most know HCF created during urban renewal in particular by Muriel Beadle and Bruce Sagan. Courageous people helped us (lists). The mission was to find a place where artists, artisans, and small business displaced by th URD could find a home. A lot that ran from McDonalds, to the parkway, to Harper Court sits on a PUD. It's all restricted, not zoned, controlled by ordinance. They bought the land from the city for $1 (originally for a police and fire station that were located elsewhere). The parking lot was unpaved for the first 20 years. HCF pays income and property taxes. the three buildings were built for $360,000, sold $100 bonds, and borrowed $250,000, 1 loan for each space. By the time it was built, the artists had gone from the neighborhood. They didn't want people to live in the studios, so the bathrooms are too small. there's no A/C (hence the vents on the windows), hands on management, as the tenants went under, the foundation paid all 26 loans.

HP Arts Council created as a vehicle to spend money after bond money was paid. Pays for the artists in residence, but a major bond holder was the U of C and it complicated things because of what a non-profit could do in terms of giving money to other nonprofits.

Mom and Pop businesses are folding, buildings structurally in need of major work--original windows cost $1,000 each to replace, balconies need replacing and ADA compliance. In 1998, one cost $250,000. The small spaces are hard to expand. The land lease to the Checkerboard ends in 2016. The lower level floods with the sewers so it's nasty. The catch basins and sump pumps and electrical all need work.

By-laws say they can give the assets to a 501(c)3 organization organization "like the U of C" not requires that they go to them, just an illustration.

Mary Anton: "I don't know what the history of Hyde Park has to do with what kind of real estate should be done."

Lady in back: It's important to me--gives us a chance to find out what you're about.
GWR. The RFP will be open to comment when written.
Mary: These meetings are too late.
Barbara O'Connor [formerly on the Arts Council]: Nobody knew anything about this, no one knew who was on the Board, the first TIF meeting was the first anyone heard from you. Even I didn't know. We're concerned with what's going on. You negotiated for years but not an open process. you need to allow people to put together ideas.

[Sarah Diwan of] Baby Ph.D.: History is important to refine comments. I am a tenant of Harper court and I think we need to focus on a series of topics: land use, current building conditions, types of tenants wanted, where others may go if displaced.

Barbara: I called George. The HPKCC since 1949 is always there for a crisis, they always dug in. TIF is not a community wide structure. I pushed him into doing this.

Mary Anton: It's too late, April 11 an April 25 are too late.
Carol Bradford [HP Historical Society]: I don't know you from anybody. Mary, why is it too late?
Mary Anton: If a presentation is to be made at the TIF May 8, a working group 4/25 is too late. You just want a parallel process.
ML: The problem is of your making.
Carol: You didn't have this open process from the git go. You are disingenuous and it's insulting.
Mary Anton: We won't have adequate time to include your comments by May 8. It's an unrealistic process...
Chorus of voices--well, push the timetable back
Baby Ph.D. tenant--This has been dragging on for years! Don't push it back.

Herald reporter tries to clarify what they think they included [sent to the Herald].

Person in back: We need a process to organize input.

Vet [Tom Wake, tenant]: The question is, "do you want Harper Court to stay? If so, we'll try to put together a proposal unless the engineers prove that it's an unworkable white elephant. If you don't want it to say, hell, I'll just get a site somewhere else. An important element in the RFP is how you think current tenants should be treated.

Mary Anton: Well, go to the website, the contact information is there.



Report on the April 11 2006 HPKCC Open Forum Express Yourself: The Future of Harper Court

By Gary Ossewaarde.
(Judy Roothan's formal paper that can be read in Harper Court Papers: Ideas and Principles

HPKCC President George Rumsey opened the forum (at the Neighborhood Club, April 11 2007. 7 pm), stating that special guests would set forth background and field questions, then the floor would be open to the public. Rumsey noted two issues, future of the property, and management of monies.

Mark Johnson, former board member and executive director of Harper Court, set forth history and experience and conditions of Harper Court.

Harper Court was built to replace businesses torn down in Urban Renewal, Johnson said. It was a planned unit development (PUD) that included what is now the Court, the city parking lot, and the site of McDonald’s. Originally, police and fire stations were supposed to go there, but when that changed no buyer was interested until the Harper Court Foundation was set up and bought the land for a dollar. To build the center, $100,000 worth of $100 bonds were sold and the rest was borrowed in 26 loans from the Small Business Administration, one for each space. The University and the Archdiocese of Chicago bought over half the bonds. Harper Court is not tax exempt and does not have property tax exemption, but a modest reduction. The Scan building’s arrangement is somewhat different, with 50-year leases that expire in 2016, after which it reverts to Harper Court. The bonds and loans were all paid off through a sinking fund about 1990.

The Center had 300,000 square feet (excluding the building built a little later by Scan Furniture and now housing the Checkerboard). The lower spaces have 6,000 square feet, the upper 12,000. The upper stories have high ceilings with operating louvers for “air conditioning” (real conditioners had to be added later). The lower spaces have very low ceilings. Johnson said not to blame the architect, Hyde Parker John Black, for the perpetual drainage problem—the lower level is below the sewer lines.

Johnson said the original vision to fill the lower sections with artisans was never realized. The restaurants basically footed the bill. Remodeling started from the beginning. Management continually wrestled with who to subsidize and how much—and how long with those that failed to pay their rent. The only remaining reduced rent artisan tenant is Artisans 21.

Johnson said the Harper Court Arts Council was formed in 1990 with bonds people turned in and said they wanted used to do nice or arts things in the neighborhood. The Council was also envisioned as the end point for the assets of Harper Court when the Court or Foundation someday ceased to function.

Johnson said the Court was built well and is still structurally sound and not settling. Almost all the windows are original, but single pane non-weatherproof. He said the plumbing and flooding are the most persistent problems. The buildings including electrical and plumbing would be very expensive to upgrade—the concrete was poured around the lines, and balconies did fail. Also, it would not be easy to bring it to ADA compliance (which he characterized as rigid). He said complete ramping would make the lower spaces completely hidden and useless. Some ramps were added in the 1990s.He added that retail has changed and left these spaces behind, and the present businesses are highly dependent on the city lot being in operation.

Alderman Preckwinkle answered questions on the Request For Proposals process and her general hopes for the area. She said that with the failure of the Arts Council’s attempt to sell, she asked them to use a city RFP process and asked the city to prepare an RFP with the Council, hoping this and inclusion of the city lot would cast as wide a net as possible for developers. City staff meetings and initial meetings with the Council are in progress. While she has asked that a draft for public comment be ready for the May 8 TIF meeting, she was not sure that would happen.

She said in answer to a question about further expansion that the University already has its own RFP responses, although there would most likely be close coordination. The University is reviewing 7 responses and will report May 8.

Inclusion of the parking lot was logical, she said, because a buyer would likely want control over parking.

RFP language ranges from very vague to very specific language intended to steer. They all give the zoning or PUD and other legal restrictions. The University’s maximum height is the bank building’s. She appeared not to know what the Harper PUD restrictions are. She would not approve a proposal with a 50 story building. The language with regard to density will probably be determined by how much a buyer will pay. The PUD will have to be changed through negotiation with the city. What would especially matter to her in language would be (as was in the Theater and Leal RFPs) keeping neighborhood scale, character, standards and that development help enhance a viable commercial district. Language would disqualify off the wall ideas. And the city will specify development that is compatible with 53rd Street.

Preckwinkle named among Hyde Park’s assets that would draw developers its housing stock, the lakefront, and being 20 minutes from downtown. She said it’s hard for us to persuade national brands to come here without deep subsidies, although when they come (e.g. Office Depot) the stores are highly productive. But we have a lot of competition now. She thought it best to have a mix of big and small, local and chains.
Some worried that the Council will have no incentive to accept minimalist proposals, those that are not dense or that keep the present center. George Davis suggested to the alderman also that the community may have interests that differ from those of both the Council and the city and therefore will not be reflected in the RFP.

Judy Roothan said it is important to specify that proposals promote and include diversity and variety. She said there should be a way to expand the process beyond just owners ready to proceed now—the affected area that has to be in play and considered goes well beyond the Court and city lot. Preckwinkle said the city would be compensated for the land and that the present lot won’t necessarily have the parking.

Public Comments
Sam Ackerman proposed nearby owners and developers work together to achieve the best outcome and to leave space to carry on a portion of the original mission.

Nancy Stanek said she was exemplifying the needed transparent process by announcing she has a long-term lease and she with others was exploring a bid, if engineering studies showed restoration and upgrade are feasible—but they had no interest in seeing the present center torn down. She is for supporting locally owned businesses. She disputed that retail has changed so much as to make that obsolete. These businesses add to the character of the community. She said that a section set aside for subsidized businesses in a big new development is problematic—in her experience such businesses come and go as the center owner has no real interest in serving them.

Some noted that the Court currently seems dead with little traffic—more so since the chess benches were removed. The space is not inviting and convenient.

George Rumsey said redevelopment should be tied to a new gateway and open space at the northwest corner of Lake Park and 53rd.

Clairan Ferrono stressed the serious lack of trust in a Council with conflicts of interest and leaving too many questions about handling of funds after a sale.

Gabriel Piemonte said professionals should evaluate the matter and manage the sale. Also that support of small business is needed. What about the present Court has worked, what hasn’t. Don’t wipe out the whole space, especially without full input and consideration of community interests.

Aaron Cook, who said he has worked with developers, said mixed use including residential works best and can have very good outcomes. He suggested a public design charrette. Rumsey reminded the alderman that this was done for creation of the TIF and asked her if she would be interested in charrette for Harper Court (not answered).

Charles O'Connell said we should study the original PUD and look at stipulating inclusion of sustainability (social and environmental) into the project as well as maintaining the areas character.

Sally Martini said the residential part would be a chance to create housing for commuting students.

Judy Roothan distributed a paper setting forth ideas for a gateway mixed development that would preserve our community’s diversity by making space that could be afforded by retirees, a broad middle class of professionals and workers and artists, and for small shops, perhaps with living space for owners—people who are in danger of being priced out of the community. This would be an ideal location to show our ideals while recognizing Hyde Park is becoming more “Gold Coast.”

Members of Artisans 21 of Harper Court came in (after their own meeting) and announced they want to stay in Harper Court.

Rumsey asked how the current tenants are being cared for and asked people to be prepared at the Workgroups April 25 to say if and how we want to preserve a space for current tenants, including maybe first right of refusal.

Charles Staples said that Harper Court has lost sight of its mission and just become commercial. The community is well served by the present center, and it’s handsome although in need of fixing.

Dorri Ellis of Artisans 21 said On the Nile is also maintaining the original vision. Artisans allows many artists to move in and out and find their bearings and move on. They tend to be the folks whose works will sell. She said there are lots of artisans in Hyde Park. She warned that rents elsewhere in Hyde Park are too high for Artisans 21 to survive outside the Court.

Alan Dobry called the transfer of the Court to the Arts Council a swindle and called on the Council to resign. He suggested seeking a nonprofit buyer or a land trust.

Robin Kaufman said the current uncertainty is making things hard for current tenants, and they will not survive or return to a new development if they have to vacate.

"Stephanie Franklin warned about creating too much density and congestion. Also against something that tilts too much toward residential (as she said Urban Renewal did.)


Herald reports on HPKCC April 11 forum, HPKCC looks to distilling set of ideas and principles at April 25 Workgroups meeting (7 pm Neighborhood Club)

65 to 70 neighbors attended the April 11 general forum. Information was shared and queried from former director Marc Johnson and Alderman Preckwinkle, then the floor was opened to questions, concerns and ideas. As shown before, there was much sentiment for continuing subsidy or providing for current tenants, but not much consensus on whether or how to redevelop. See full report in the HPKCC on Harper Court page. See ideas and their connection to the writers' community values and principles in the Harper Papers-ideas and principles page.

Excerpted from the April 19 2006 Herald. By Tedd Carrison. Harper Court Forum 4/25: Public Input sought before May 8 RFP presentation

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference will host its third (sic) forum regarding the Harper Court Shopping Center on April 25 This is the final meeting before the Harper Court Arts Council, which owns the complex, is due to outline principles in May to develop the center.

At a similar HPKCC forum last week, ideas for the site varied from keeping it as is to knocking down the 40-year-old buildings at 42nd Place and Harper Avenue and starting over. A common element among many of the roughly 50 people who crowded into the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club April 11 was the need to maintain low rents for the current tenants, no matter how the area is developed.

Some of the tenants present at the meeting said that their livelihoods depend on the discounted rents that have defined Harper Court since it was built by a non-profit in 1965. "If we can't get a break on rent, we will be gone and we will probably be gone for good," said Dorri Ellis of Artists 21, a cooperative of artists that have held space in Harper Court since 1981.

Hyde Parker and member of the Neighbors to Save Harper Court Robin Kaufman denounced the Harper Court Arts Council's intention to sell the non-profit shopping center to a for-profit developer earlier this year, saying it was "highjacked."... Kaufman said she fears that a future sale will compromise the incorporated mission of the non-profit Harper Court Foundation, which built the center in 1965. .."To take it away would be criminal."

Despite the nostalgia many residents hold for the court, Hyde Parker and urban planner Aaron Cook said changes must be made it it is to become economically viable. "Harper court needs to grow up," said Cook. He proposed a design charrette to draft plans for the court that would incorporate professional expertise with direct community input. The idea was well-received by many at the forum.

Also touting the benefits of community participation, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) urged the arts council to institute the current Request for Proposals (RFP) process...the arts council agreed and has been soliciting suggestions for the past month. It is slated to present the status of the RFP at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club...May 8, during the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council's bimonthly meeting. The arts council can be reached at The HPKCC can be reached at


Provisional Report on the HPKCC April 25 Workgroups on the Future of Harper Court

Combined from compilations of Gary Ossewaarde, M.L. Rantala, and George Rumsey

[What was this "Workgroup Forum" all about? See Maroon coverage below.]

George Rumsey opened the meeting attended by 35-38 with description of reference handouts, including excerpts from the 2000 A Vision for the Hyde Park Retail District, What's Right and What's Wrong with Hyde Park-Kenwood HPKCC Forum October 2005, Key Excerpts from the University of Chicago RFP for 53rd and Harper Properties, and Gary Ossewaarde's Report on the April 11, 2006 Forum on the Future of Harper Court.

The approximately 40 attendees sat at tables identified by the color of their marker and gave three answers each to three questions. Pieces of paper with the answers in the colors of each table were taped to the wall and reviewed by the whole.

1) What should an improved Harper Court do for the neighborhood?

Blue table. Provide a multiplex theater complex to revitalize the neighborhood, as in Evanston
Provide a multi-level parking garage, available day and night
Provide a haven for small non-franchise businesses

Green. Maintain low rise
Mixed-use low rise small businesses
ADA Accessibility

Gray. Connect and interact with 53rd Street to create a seamless retail/activity core
Be a draw-through for retail, programming, arts, and entertainment
Attract community residents, including students, to shop in Hyde Park

Pink. Nurture small businesses and artisans
It should be a happening place, host art festivals and community events, etc.
Provide needed goods and services, such as a vet, and should be flexible in response to the times

More imaginative management

Black. Subsidize artisans and small businesses
Accessible public spaces for gathering
s. both planned and impromptu, such as chess, concerts, and farmers' markets
Local retail needed and owned by the community

Purple. Provide a magnet such as theater, small business, restaurants, to draw both community residents and outsiders
Provide subsidized space for small business and artists
Provide open space for community events

Orange. An agora, not a mall
Subsidized art experiences and venues
Business incubator

2) What should an improved Harper Court look like?

Pink. A walking arcade with teen, kid-friendly skateboard park in the parking lot
Environmentally friendly rooftop garden and responsible green technology
Aesthetically pleasing low-rise, low density height restrictions

Orange. More open space (more than now)
Pedestrian-oriented to encourage foot traffic
All structural perimeters have retail or public use (with no blank walls)
Assume an internal parking structure

Gray. Buildings with character and aesthetic interest making cars invisible
Provide significant central open space for gathering and greenery
Clear image including signs, directions, and attractions to pedestrians and for pedestrian flow

Blue. Hospitable, modern, dramatic, like the new Hyde Park Art Center
Build up vertically for additional shops, restaurants, housing, movies, and theaters
Accessible (ADA as well as easy walk through) and easy to navigate

Purple. Live-in studios and workshops
Look at models throughout the country such as Torpedo Factory and the Shriners Temple [Tree Studios]
Keep the Harper Court structure

Green. Enhance outdoor ambiance, more color, more flowers, more chess
Welcoming entrance arches
Every space filled

Black. Visibility to main avenues through signs, banners, directory
Same but improved low rise design and accessible
Open, friendly, with vibrant with activity

3) How should our community influence the project so that the improvement benefits both the neighborhood and the Arts Council?

Gray. Actively oppose, through the city planning department, any plan unsatisfactory to the community. (We can stop them if we get the Alderman's help, when it comes to the city process.)
Design multi-use structure, retail, office, restaurants, residential, etc. with space for parking structure and low-grade truck service, allow height on the east half of site to provide maximum money to meet the arts council objective of money for the arts; and subsidize limited number of small businesses and artisan shops. [The east end of the site is what will border on Lake Park that could have more height, even if it casts a shadow on McDonalds's, on the other hand Nancy Stanek says that if it were a blank slate, you wouldn't think of doing that because it would block off the rests of buildings.]
Initiate input in the Harper Court foundation/arts council by questioning their ethics through legal action.

Black. Use the alderman's zoning leverage, and petition the state Attorney General for community/tenant reps on the Harper Court board.
Educate, publicize, flyers in Harper Court to diverse residents
Have a festival celebrating Harper Court, publicizing the issue

Orange. Profits from Harper Court sale to be dispersed by arts council only through grant proposals
Broaden arts council board to include many other constituents
Advisory council for private developer to provide community input for public uses [developer would want to get in good with community and would want the community's idea, creating a public-private partnership]

Green. A referendum on high rises and density
Expand community base to be more inclusive
Get citywide media coverage

Pink. Development reflects community input and continues the original mission of Harper Court [subsidized spaces for retail, affordable spaces, arts and artisans]I
Community ownership of land, not necessarily property/buildings [Hyde Park land trust
Private enterprise [as an entrepreneur, Nancy Stanek says there's a lot to be said for private enterprise. When you own and operate it and have something real at stake, then you care about it.]

Purple. Engage the National Trust Main Street America planning process
Work with the Alderman and TIF, but hold their feet to the fire to represent the community
Accountability process and rewrite t he bylaws and reconstitute the foundation/ac board
Reconstitute the Arts Council

Blue. Pursue legal basis of Harper Court Ownership [find out what the legal basis of the ownership of the real estate is, act accordingly]
Demand attendance by Foundation and Council members
Pressure Alderman to be responsive to community wishes

Nancy Stanek reminded re not wanting franchise and fast foods that only a few decades ago people were begging for them to come to Hyde Park.

At the conclusion, Withrow took a show of hands on consensus that care for the tenants is a top priority of the attendance of this meeting. Unanimous agreement.

Answers from the April 25 Evaluation forms

  1. Would you prefer to see Harper Court rehabbed or rebuilt as something new?
    Rehab 16 59%
    Rebuilt 11 41%

  2. Should the original mission of Harper Court (help develop arts/small businesses) be retained in any degree?
    Retain mission 31 97%
    Don't retain 1 3%

  3. Should public space (such as the courtyard) be maintained and/or new spaces added?
    Public space 32 100%
    No special space 0 0%

  4. Should current tenants be "helped" to stay in business during any development?
    Help current 31 97%
    Don't help 1 3%

  5. In general, how tall is acceptable for development along 53rd and Lake Park?
    Two story 0 0%
    Four story 23 74%
    Fourteen story 4 13%
    Between 4 and 14 4 13%

  6. Compared to the parking lot on the corner of 53rd and Lake Park, how much parking should be required for any development plan?
    Less parking 1 3%
    Same parking 2 7%
    More parking 19 66%
    Much more 7 24%

  7. Should any development include housing? If so, what kind of housing (open ended)
    For sale
    If its' affordable (part rent)
    Apartments of condos or mix
    Only if necessary to subsidize small business
    Not luxury condos, mixed affordable-home ownership

    Moderate income rental
    Artists/studios & small business 2-story live-in
    Yes, mixed at local price & low price
    Yes, mixed live-in studios & workshops
    Two stories of apartments in a 4-story building- source of income?
    No, Hyde Park needs retail
    Not necessarily
    ? Possible
    No, other development projects are addressing housing

    Artists housing
    Some modest mixed income affordable
    Maybe, studio apartments
    Not necessarily
  8. What do you think would be appropriate retail for Hyde Park? What kinds of stores would you realistically like to see?

    Clothing, food
    Not national franchise; locally owned
    Food specialty shops, body & fitness services, clothing (men, women, children), dry goods, home equip.
    Clothing, sewing/notions, small stationery, garden supplies and plants
    Second hand store, art supplies store
    Casual wear stores (sweaters, slacks, etc.) and lingerie
    Something in general needs, like old Woolworth's or Breslauer's
    Cool stores
    Notions, sewing needs, good restaurant (an Indian/South Asian one), also many students
    Vintage, charming restaurants, fiber art/yarn store (good for community), coffee
    Small unique shops
    Brown Elephant thrift store
    Women's clothing, sportswear, varied gift wares, Chinese restaurant, antique shops
    Clothing, sundries, yarn, fabric store
    Restaurant, gift/craft shops
    Artisans 21 and small businesses
    Clothing, "fine foods" like chocolates, pastries, toy stores, artisans cafes, sporting goods, restaurants
    Too many subcultures, too many choices
    Canvas the community
    Children's clothing, toys, housewares, jewelry, knick-knacks
    Bigger Artisans 21
    Local business - no franchises
    Art galleries
    Arts, crafts, practical shops, such as sewing, etc.
    Vanities including basic and a few dining destinations
    Women's retail clothes
  9. What would you like the Harper Court Arts Council to do with assets from the sale of Harper Court?

Use it to incubate & nourish small startup and independent businesses
Subsidize artisans shops/studios and funky small business
Subsidize artisans
Give to community for community-led development; keep away from U C
No sale
Should give, not sell, property to a community group
To arts orgs? A theater?
They should not sell it to anyone except the community- a land trust which should be established- with leases given for buildings
Put into Hyde Park
Not waste them
Give grants & scholarships - artists in residence
Disperse slowly over years by means of grant proposals; form a larger HP Arts
Dispense profits only through grant proposal process
Scholarship funds for young artists
Support arts/small local business
Grant money for artists, artisans, musicians
Redistribute through open grant proposals
Please - no sale - that much money in the hands of one council is obscene
Support arts/education
Support the arts in the community
Part to arts, some to retail
Support the artisans
Use original purpose-reconstitute the board with community/tenant reps

10. Are there any other comments you would like to add about the topics discussed tonight?

Affordable housing (NFP develop, with retail downstairs)
Board transparency
Open/expand the board
Community land trust
Have a referendum
Combination of leased and owned businesses? Management company?
Parking lot should NOT be part of the plan.


Report in the Chicago Maroon on the April 25 Workgroups

May 2, 2006. By Emily Alpert. Residents meet to discuss future of Harper Court, Residents say Harper Court falls short in attracting customers.

About three dozen people gathered at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club on April 25 to share ideas about the future of Harper Court.

James Withrow, vice president of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC), which organized the meeting, said the goal was to get "starting ideas" leading toward"the large-picture idea of what should happen with Harper Court. If the community is going to have some input here, it's important that, as much as possible, we speak with one voice," Withrow said.

The meeting was the third held by the HPKCC on the issue. [Background..]

.... The transfer drew criticism from residents who felt that the perceived lack of transparency and public input indicated a departure from Harper Court's original purpose.

....Representatives from the Arts Council declined to comment to the Maroon, saying it would make a full presentation at the TIF meeting.

The HPKCC has called for an open and public Request for Proposals process, although it has taken no position on the future of Harper Court.

Withrow asked those assembled what an improved Harper court should do for the neighborhood, what the facility should look like, and how the community should work together to ensure that the project benefits both the neighborhood and the mission of Harper Court Foundation/Arts Council.

In small working groups, attendees drew up answers that reflected a variety of opinions, ranging from "mixed-use, low-rise businesses" to "build up vertically." A third option suggested building high on the east side of Harper Court and keeping low-rise buildings to the west.

The group reached a consensus on other issues, as almost everyone in attendance agreed that Harper Court's current tenants should remain. "Business owners who have an interest in the community provide better for the community," said Joshua Koppel, a longtime Hyde Park resident and U of C alumnus.

Visibility was also a major topic. Many attendee felt that Harper court does not do enough to attract customers, an that not all residents, particularly students, are aware of its shops. "I was up and down 53rd Street for a month and a half before I saw it was there," said Megan Anderson, who moved to Hyde Park this year.

Other suggestions included entrance arches, public events, a teen-friendly skateboard park in the parking lot, a theater complex, and the return of public chessboards, which were removed in April 2002.

Withrow's question about what actions community members should take also generated a range of responses. Noam Perlman, a fourth-year in the College, said residents should pressure for more community representatives on the Arts Council Board. "This is a bottleneck," Perlman said. "[Residents] own it, and they can do what they want."

Della Moran, a member of the grass-roots community group Neighbors to Save Harper Court, recommended the use of community land trusts, which effectively separate land and the property on it. Others suggested working more intensively with 4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle as well as raising community awareness about the issue.

George Rumsey, president of HPKCC, said Harper Court was on the agenda for the nexts board meeting....The HPKCC is expected to present its suggestions to the Arts Council prior to its [presentation at the] May 8 TIF Advisory Council meeting. Top


Letter of HPKCC on Board Position, other matters with respect to Harper Court. May, 2006

HPKCC Board Endorses Need for Original Harper Court Mission

Dear Editor (Hyde Park Herald, for issue of May 10, 2006):

On May 4, 2006, the Board of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference voted 12 to 1 to endorse the need to preserve, in some form or manner, the original mission of the Harper Court Foundation: “promoting and assisting the growth and development of business concerns, including small-business concerns in said area” with special emphasis for “the continuation in the community of artisans, craftsmen, and educational, recreational and other services offered on a commercial basis” (paragraph 5, Harper Court Foundation Articles of Incorporation, April 17, 1963).

In its three public meetings since the March TIF meeting, HPKCC has listened to a variety of worthwhile opinions and ideas that deserve exploration. Among the innovative and creative ideas volunteered by our neighbors, there have been several constants: (1) The original mission of Harper Court is still needed today and should be retained. (2) The current tenants should be “helped” during any construction period. (3) Any development must be appropriate for Hyde Park, and should preferably be appealing to a broad spectrum of the neighborhood; a plus would be a “gateway” to 53rd Street. (4) Any new development should be kept at a height consistent with 53rd Street, generally no higher than 4 stories. (5) More adequate parking must be provided. (6) Public space (including chess benches) is required.

Following lengthy discussions earlier this year with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office of Charitable Trusts, the Conference raised seven questions it hoped would be answered by the Arts Council. As of today, five remain unanswered: What are the Council’s ideas for appropriate development in Harper Court? How are the Arts Council bylaws being revised? What is being done to make the Council board more representative of the community and the arts? What steps are being taken to eliminate conflicts of interest? What framework will be created to make decisions about the dissemination of funds from the sale?

Until these questions are answered, and until the Arts Council proves itself capable of interacting with the community in an open, civil, and transparent manner, I will continue to encourage the Alderman and the Attorney General’s office to pressure the Harper Court Arts Council board to either be more responsive to community concerns, or else resign and have the community select a new board.


George W. Rumsey, President

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference



Letter from HPKCC to Harper Court Arts Council June 8, 2006 inviting HPAC to a small meeting with the HPKCC Preservation, Zoning and Development Committee

June 8, 2006

Harper Court Arts Council
5211 S. Harper
Chicago, IL 60615

Dear Harper Court Arts Council:

We appreciate the offer made by Mary Anton at the June TIF meeting to meet with small groups from the community. The HPKCC committee on Preservation, Zoning and Development (a small group from our board) would like to meet with you before the next TIF meeting.

Most of our committee members are available for a meeting on the following days: June 15, June 19, June 20, June 26, June 27, or June 29. Tentatively, we could hold the meeting in the fourth floor conference room in the Hyde Park Bank Building (depending on its availability), or otherwise here in my office in the Bank (room 907), or another location at your convenience. The meeting could start any time after 6:00 when our members will have returned from work. If you let me know what is best for your board, I'll make the arrangements and notify the committee. [contacts]

We look forward to discussing your plans concerning Harper Court.


George W. Rumsey, President
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.

cc: Howard Males, Chair, 53rd Street TIF

June 24, HCAC said they would follow up in July concerning a meeting. At the July 10 TIF meeting they said a meeting would be after they met with the city.


Follow up August 3, 2006

Thank you for the note. I'm just back in the office after a short trip. I will communicate with my board and get back to you as soon as possible.

Leslie Morgan
-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: Thursday, August 03, 2006 6:14 PM
Subject: Re: Harper Court Arts Council

In a message dated 6/26/2006 1:59:56 PM Central Daylight Time, writes:
More specifically, we will initiate contact with your office in July to plan such a meeting.
Hi. Just a reminder--summer time is escaping, and we're looking forward to having a chance to talk about what's happening with Harper Court. Don't forget us! Thanks.

George W. Rumsey, President
Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference


Note: after replying at the end of June that they are busy meeting with lots of groups (not true) and would contact HPKCC in July about setting up a meeting, Ken Grant at the July 10 TIF meeting said they would meet with us after meeting with the city. There has been no contact so far despite reminders, no meetings with other groups or with the Attorney General or Dept. of Planning.

HPKCC at its August board meeting reaffirmed its commitment to insisting the Arts Council revert seriously to carrying on the original purpose of Harper Court to promote, and subsidize if necessary, small businesses and services, and that it initiate real public process.
The board believes Harper Court Arts Council is not only seriously out of touch with the community and its responsibility but seriously flawed per se.

Watch for a series of letters in coming weeks reiterating our concerns and position and other pressure on the Arts Council. Board members noted that Alderman Preckwinkle is now the key to ending the gridlock.

From September 2006 Conference Reporter, From the Presidents' Desk. Harper Court has still not met with us.

I wanted to let those of you who are interested know that the Conference Committee on Preservation, Development, and Zoning has yet to meet with the Harper Court Arts Council.

At the May TIF meeting, we were told that the Board of HCAC would be willing to meet with small community groups to discuss their plans for Harper Court. I quickly contacted the HCAC Board, requesting a meeting on behalf of the Conference. On June 8, I received the message "I will consult with the Board and respond to your request in a timely manner."

On June 26, I received "As you know, the ongoing strategic planning process to examine the potential sale of Harper Court Shopping Center is a multi-faceted one that involves a number of stakeholders and publics, including City of Chicago officials, tenants, community and cultural groups, and others.

"To that end, the Harper Court Arts Council, as previously indicated, is amenable to meeting with you on Preservation, Zoning and Development at a mutually agreed-upon location, date and time. More specifically, we will initiate contact with your office in July to plan such a meeting."

On August 16, the message was "Through Labor Day, many of my board members are on vacation. There is no time prior to that where even one or two members are in town at the same time...I expect to have the group together in early September. I will keep you informed. Thank you for your patience."

The Conference has not taken a position on what we would like to see happen with Harper Court. We have stated our determination to see that the original mission of the Harper Court Foundation be maintained, and that the current businesses be provided for in any development framework. We have also tried to faithfully present the ideas and concerns of the community in a constructive manner.