Harper Court Redevelopment: Vermilion and partners Presentation on Harper Court Area/53rd-Lake Park Development; early looks starting with the February 8, 2010 special TIF meeting

Number 8 in the Harper chronological series. Note- this page is still being built.

This page is provided as a resource and record by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Preservation-Development-Zoning Committee (chair Gary Ossewaarde), and its website, www.hydepark.org. Writer Gary Ossewaarde. Join the Conference, support our work.

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Harper Court's History. Archived records: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7. #9 July 12 2010 presentation and TIF funding request.

See samples of the Harper initial plan (from city handout at Feb. 8 2010 TIF meeting) with indicators of building uses in our
FACEBOOK FANPAGE (thanks to HPKCC Secretary Trish Morse.)

See samples of the Harper initial plan (from city handout at Feb. 8 2010 TIF meeting) and comments (don't be fooled by the title) in HPKCC board member James Withrow's Hyde Park Urbanist blog: This also contains an analysis, especially on what's right and the quality and effort of the design team.



Herald February 9: Harper Court Plans presented. By Sam Cholke

Teams from Vermilion Development and its partners in redeveloping of the Harper Court Shopping Center presented plans to the community Feb. 8 for a $240-million project that would reshape streets and push the buildings up to meet - and surpass - the Hyde Park Bank Building in height.

The concept, presented at a special meeting of the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing District advisory council, shows a large structure over the existing shopping center and adjoining parking lot that would include 12 stories of office space across from the Hyde Park Bank Building backed by a taller residential tower clad in glass and stone.

The proposal, which was warmly greeted by about 200 community members, would also include a second phase of residential buildings. The plan calls for reopening harper avenue as a through street that would provide access to a 16-story, 200-room boutique hotel.

A new L-shaped one-way street is also proposed that would enter directly across from the main entrance of the Hyde Park Bank building through where the current Hollywood Video building stands, pass a new five-story retail building and the hotel and empty onto Harper Avenues. The street could be blocked off to accommodate using the space for the farmers market now running, spring through fall, at Harper Court.

Current plans call for parking for 839 vehicles - most of that parking being inside a green-roofed parking garage that would be accessible off of Lake Park Avenue.

Chris Dillian, managing director for Vermilion, said they are trying to relocate existing harper Court tenants in the new development and have been reaching out to other local and national retailers to sign on to the project. "We've been thrilled with the interest we've seen so far," Dillian said. Hyde Park is an underserved market for retail, he said.

The development would be funded using a mix of public and private capital. "We have substantial equity to invest - considerably more than other development groups for a project like this," said Dave Cogagne, President and CEO of Vermilion. The current financial plan calls fort he use of money from the tax increment financing district for infrastructure costs. The project will apply for New Markets Tax Credits, a federal program for development in low-income communities. Cocagne said they will also apply for Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, funds from the federal government administered by the city that reduce interest on loans and are meant to spur infrastructure development that could otherwise not occur.

"Negotiations start next week with the university and the city," to acquire the property, Cocagne said. Currently, plans call for Vermilion to retain ownership ownership after the development is complete, he said.

The plan will go to the TIF council's Planning and Development Committee on March 1. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornel.

"This is why TIFs exist - we exist for development," said Howard Males, chair of the TIF advisory council. "This is the biggest thing to talk about since the Olympics that didn't happen."


Chicago Maroon, February 9, 2010. Harper plans get off teh ground, but some skeptical of funding for $250 million project

Note- a movie theater was not promised-- this was dependent on market and attracting a vendor; indoor and outdoor space for occasionally showing film was suggested also. This is more than a renovation (or Urban Renewal unwound), it's a new creation at the neighborhood's heart.

By Adam Janofsky

The New Harper Court will include a movie theater and a 200-unit hotel, Vermilion Development announced Monday when it unveiled its plans for the shopping center's renovation. Vermilion, which was selected by the University and the city last month to develop the former commercial hub, presented the plan during a Tax Increment (TIF) meeting at Canter Middle School

the project, which also features retail stores, office space, and apartments, was influenced by comments solicited from Hyde Parkers over the past several months, Vermilion said. "We saw that hyde Park really needs a good hotel," project designer and architect James Plunkard said. "Our project includes a 200-unit hotel that will be at teh development's center"

The design creates two new streets through Harper Court that will act as venues for events like the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. Their 30-feet-wide sidewalks wil also provide ample space for farmers' markets, designer Sophie Bidek said.

Two apartment complexes and a condominium building will surround the two streets. an office building will be located at the corner of the development and an attached garage will help ease congestion. "We also pulled our building back to improve the walkability of Lake Park Avenue," Plunkard said.

The redevelopment aims to be a hub for student recreation as well. "When I was a student there were no coffee shops on campus, and Hutch didn't even have food. The campus was a much less sociable place," said Fourth Ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle (A.B '69, M.A.T. '77) who partnered with the University to select a developer and oversee the project. "This is definitely going to make student life more exciting."

While the area around Harper Court has not always thrived financially, vermilion expects the new designs to create a social center in Hyde Prk. "The planning felt like being a doctor," said urban planner Doug Farr, who worked with Vermilion on the project. "[Harper Court] wasn't well and we needed to figure out why."

Redevelopment plans for Harper Court started in May 2008 when the University bought the property for $6.5 million. Vermilion was selected as the developer january 14. l"We picked Vermilion because of... their experience in large-scale, university-related projects," Chicago Project manager james Wilson said.

Hyde Parkers applauded the plans and voiced their support for them during the Q & A period. "This is the biggest thing to talk about since teh Olympics didn't happen," TIF Board Chairman Howard Males said.

But many audience members were wary of the company's ability to financed the $250 million project while coming out of a recession. "My main concern is financing. Are the banks behind it? It will be tough," said Hans Thilenius, a local contractor.

Construction is scheduled to start next year, with the first phase completed by 2013.



From the Presentation of the Vermilion plan for Harper Court Redevelopment at the February 8, 2010 Special 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council meeting, and discussion

Howard Males, TIF Chair, opened the meeting at Canter Middle School at 7 pm. He stressed that the TIF priorities remain what they have always been: schools, jobs and workforce, and parking and access solutions. This meeting is not to discuss any allocation of money, which has not at this point been requested. He announced that at the conclusion of the two hours, the plan would be remanded to Chuck Thurow's Planning and Development subcommittee, which would meet in open session Monday, March 1, 6:30 pm at Hyde Park Art Center (The next regular TIF meeting will be March 8, 7 pm at Kenwood Academy). Both plans and process are only at the beginning-- don't feel that every question has to asked tonight. Vermilion will entertain offers to appear before many small groups, so Males asked that the various presenting teams give him business cards to facilitate invitations. At some point a recommendation of the project will be sought. Males also noted various stakeholders and teams present. Attendance was in the 150 to 200 plus range.

James Wilson, Chicago Department of Community Development project liaison for the Mid South, presented a PowerPoint of the site redevelopment proposal and its background.

Harper Court Redevelopment

RFP Preferred Developer
53rd Street TIF Advisory Council Update

Harper Court Redevelopment RFP

Recommended Developer:

Vermilion / JFJ Development

Proposal Highlights

53rd Street Workshop Results

Preferred Developer Proposal includes

Why Vermilion?

Next steps



Three and a half year process. The Alderman asked the U of C and city to issue a joint RFP.
This was followed by workshops, surveys et al, and RFP later issued in December 2008 was viewable on line for comment.
10 developers responded to RFQ, more than for any other city RFP. They were narrowed to 5 for the RFP phase.
This was by June 2009 narrowed to four, then three for intensive work. The owner team travelled much to their projects and did a hard due diligence.

Some of Vermilion's qualities that led to selection- see above, also retail all along the streets, distinctiveness, housing-includes-affordable.

From a brief executive handout presumably from the development team:

Harper Court represents a singular opportunity to develop the critical mass required to reinvigorate the 53rd street corridor and redefine a destination of great significance to the Hyde Park and mid-south communities. This redevelopment will reestablish the sense of place, strengthen community and university ties, and serve as a key point of pride within the community.

Our collective vision seeks to transform the project area into a vibrant destination that celebrates the rich cultural character and vitality of Hyde Park, incorporating urban design principles that enhance the quality of the 53rd Street corridor experience and its connections to the broader community.

This project endeavors to be among the most sustainable projects in the City of Chicago, and aspire to be a national model in green planning and design.

The Harper Court master plan incorporates a mix of uses around a pedestrian-oriented district. A total of 39,600 square feet of pubic space is created, reflecting a 233% increase over the existing Harper Court. A new outdoor performance space sits opposite the iconic archway of the Hyde Park Bank at the terminus of the new Harper Court.

Vermilion Development and JFJ Development Company combine local residential expertise with strategic competencies in institutional and retail-led mixed-use development. The Drexel Group, LLC delivers a strong understanding of the Hyde Park community, essential for a successful redevelopment. The Project Team is prepared to undertake a multi-year, $194 million dollar redevelopment that wil re-anchor 53rd Street.

Lead designer Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture (HPA) is known for its expertise in mixed-use and multi-family projects that define neighborhoods. As master planner and design partner, Farr Associates, cited by the New York Times as "the most prominent of the city's growing cadre of ecologically sensitive architects," will undertake the planning effort for the Harper Court development in the context of the broader community.

[picture of what the view might be eastward from Harper Avenue through the wide plaza-like 52nd Place;
possible views of the glass and stone structures; site plan. View

Live: A blend of 170 market rate and affordable condominiums and 74 apartment units for those seeking the urban appeal of 53rd Street.

Play: A retail destination (150,000 square feet) to anchor the 53rd street corridor that will serve as a regional draw for the mid-south communities.

Learn: Community spaces that enhance collaboration among neighborhood, civic and ars-based groups, drawing linkages to Harper Court's history.

Work: The office environment will cater to institutional use and small business. Daytime employees will enhance 53rd Street retail viability.]


Extended presentation by the Design Team

The four sections were: Team, Design Overview; Execution, Sustainability, and Community Impact

The team -(presentation was too fast to get names exact) includes McHugh construction (with experience in WMB and jobs training),
William Blair, JFJ (commercial real estate), V3 (construction); Sheffsy and Froelisch (legal).
Mervis brings top credit rating.
Vermilion's experience is strongly in retail mixed development and centers for colleges - "point of pride" development.
The Drexel Group brings local experience and connections.
Hartshorne Plunkard HPD (?) is the lead design firm, with FARR Associates architects- sustainability at the neighborhood level (The inclusion of Doug Farr is especially important.)

Design principles/objectives -

Community focus with ongoing engagement

Historic sensitivity- going back to the 1925 pre urban renewal Sanborn map footprint; Jane Jacobs on life and death of great cities

Actionable (doable)

Destination-driven (purposed); regional use

Sustainable in all senses-- goal is break through in Midwest and Platinum LEED certification (It was noted UC is behind others on sustainability. Doug Farr is a leader and innovator.)

Looked closely at what they say the Workshops brought out as needed/desired:

Looked at the history of the "patient" and seek to restore the density, mix of retail and residential, and tie to railroad lost with 1960 clearance and switch to low density uses-- and not recreating helpful uses such as the hotels, which would now be restored.

Looked at what people like Jane Jacobs said about urban vitality, needed uses and density, shouldn't be expanses of surface parking such as were created by urban renewal.

Taking advantage of the Hyde Park Bank bldg. as an anchor and design and scale inspiration- especially the arch as ground zero (the new semi plaza street faces it). Put an office building of similar scale opposite HPB to match it.

Enhancing and emulating pedestrian friendliness on Lake Park (which is not) and in the interior of the new Harper- make that a pedestrian-use place/space and heart, not just an access pedway. Conflict and barrier reduction/correction was a goal. Not only would Lake Park be fixed but Harper would be opened. These change and break up the scale.

The new ped plaza (with some parking- said needed for retail) going one way north from 53rd then west to Harper would both break up the scale and funnel/pull people into the heart- retail and the hotel would line it.
This new street would be very wide (30 feet), lined with benches, chess tables, water features and public art, be textured, and provide 233% more pedestrian usable space than the current Harper Court- one third of the entire site is open. It would have capacity to put up canopies, and the streets could be closed as for Farmers' Market. There would be outdoor cafes, a small mini park, and a platform for performances. (There will be a ped connector from the e-w 52nd Pl. to Lake Park.)
Chess benches were mentioned several times.

They want a 24-hour bustle and usage.

Lake Park would have the auto access to the garage and once parked, they could go out onto Lake Park, but would really be pulled into the new plaza street with its retail and the hotel. On Lake Park the first two floors would be retail, 3-8 on corner (set back and recessed for a small plaza maybe with public art) would be the office structure, to the north parking over retail with a roof garden and a taller condo building atop retail to the north.

The hotel would have key public space including cinema-like and a roof garden



All the retail would be in phase one-- that should be in before bringing in residential, they said, and this retail should both be able to stand on its own as a draw and attract residents later. The retail and motel cost $150 million

The internal streets, entertainment center, structure parking, office tower, and 200-room hotel will also go in this phase.

The residential, when the market warrants it: Mid rises west of Harper and north of the retail block (at 52nd St. and Harper) with their own surface parking (Park 52-Checkerboard being moved into other parts of the complex),
The tall condo building at the north end of the site along Lake Park above the parking.
Phase II would cost about $90 million.

They want to sign agreements soon (negotiations to start 3rd week of February),
get through the city and community process
be in the ground next year
have things opening by 2013.

More Components, Goals


628 space garage entry and exit at midpoint of site on Lake Park with parking there and extending north under the future condo building. The design will evolve. It's designed to handle all the retail, entertainment and office need (plus?). The hotel will have all its need met underground (100 spaces). Surface parking west and northwest for the other residential.


$150M initially, $90M next phase- $260 m. How?
Majority private capital
Leverage from public including Recovery Zone, TIF infrastructure, possible New Markets Tax Credits [supposed to be for low income?]

More Goals:

Sustainability- Platinum LEED Certification is the goal, including for cores and shell and new construction. Being a benchmark is important to them, and brings financial breaks.

MWEB- exceed standards: engage, partnerships, local temp (873 construction) and permanent jobs (1007 retail and hotel), workforce training including for retail,
involve City and other colleges in the training

Outstanding outdoor art

Local as well as regional and national stores-- already talking, plus educational institutional presence (partner institutions)



What's to be on 52nd street. Retail only

More about the hotel? c200 beds, possibly boutique such as the British Indigo chain, modestly priced rooms, branded to the community, 20% committed to U of C Medical Center.

The present sculpture? Hope to incorporate it into the new.

Retail first is counterintuitive? They are convinced this works better-- and the residential component is modest.

Why the office at the gateway 53rd Lake Park corner, with implication such empties out at 5 pm and doesn't contribute to the "24 hour" goal. Echoes and synergies with the Bank Bldg.--and shouldn't be higher that that ("bookend" the bank). There's enough space east and south to let in full light and reduce energy load for an office (not available at other locations), helping with sustainability attainment. It can be done now and start a heft and presence; it has UC use commitment at a marketable location. The hotel and condo building are too tall for the corner.

What happens to the service alley north of the existing buildings on 53rd, and its address is 52nd Place. Stays. (No answer on naming.)

Won't opening an active curb cut just east of Valois not meshed with the already problematic Old Lake Park cause more congestion, even if it only exits north? Should the new streets having parking (retailers want it), and what happens when there is heavy pedestrian use or it is closed off to cars for Farmers Market or.... (no answer to remaining parts). (And see 5 questions down).

The plan seems context sensitive, but what the materials must be also.

Glad to see the chess come back.

Who will own, run, take money from the parking garage, and who gets to use it? Under negotiation.
Temporary parking during construction will be provided. They recognize parking has to be right- can't be too little or too much. Don't want it just a drive-to destination, which grows traffic.

Is the residential density and or market catchment sufficient to support this much retail. They will come- the market is underserved. It's "immediately viable."

Lack of diversity in the team representatives does not give confidence of commitment to diversity in jobs and business enterprise involvement. McHugh will bring that-- lots of minority partners already.

Means and infrastructure to manage traffic especially on 53rd does not seem adequate, and the parking access curb cuts on Lake Park will make problems worse.

What will be the criteria for access to the "affordable" component of housing. The city and regional standards were cited-- have to earn less than 120% of the Chicagoland median income.

Who will own the site and run the complex? Private. And the Team expects to be doing it. Negotiations with the owners is just starting.




Since the presentation meeting, people have raised these initial questions-- and there are doubtless more:

But first let it be said that most walked away impressed and satisfied, and feeling at most that "more work is to be done", rather than that "it's wrong."

Reluctance to have the University owning the complex or deciding tenants, or taking income from it except from the sale price.

How sturdy is the financing, in these times?

Office building not signature enough for the gateway location, maybe needs an emblem such as reinterpretation of the Bank Arch. And how will it entice commuters and work with the Metra station? View the rendering.

An office building emptying out at 5 pm runs counter to the goal of creating a 24-7 destination. A multi-story retail store might be better, with the office stretched out atop that? (And why no higher than the bank building?)

Steps to calm Lake Park for pedestrian friendliness not enough- retail there may need to be stronger, and not weakened by a close curb cut and gap for parking access.

Makes 53rd and intersection traffic worse?

Project may do little to help 53rd St. retail redevelopment and may even cherry pick retail and shoppers away; doesn't really open up the new Harper Court to 53rd. May shift gravity to north of 53rd, or repeat the mistake of hiding the Court away.

The expanded public space is outdoors, limiting its year-round and all-weather usefulness--shouldn't some be indoors (and more meeting space is needed anyway).

Some of the supporting principles are oversimplified-- not all in workshops endorsed density or height; what is meant by "quality" and can it be a code for upscaling the community?; parking need was also stressed; enhancing and embracing 53rd business district was first-principal, and having spaces that are affordable with merchandise most can afford to shop for was also important.


Gary Ossewaarde submitted at this meeting these points on what needs to be looked at.

Dear Mr. Thurow:

General reception of the Vermilion concepts is very positive, recognizing that planning is in its very early stages. Hence the concerns I have gathered from various parties since the February 8, 2010 presentation are really things that need special attention and working out. There is general desire and assumption that good communication and public input will continue throughout.

I call your attention to the letter of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its Development Committee published in the Hyde Park Herald last month stating the public interest or importance of good planning on three matters: public (including TIF) expenditures, circulation within and to the site, and managing impact of construction on the community and businesses.

I believe the earlier we develop thoughts and are prepared with parameters for dealing with such requests or challenges, the fewer delays or quandaries there will be.

Other items that must be carefully worked out include:

• Interface with 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue.
o How will the interface improve instead of increase traffic conflicts and congestion; how will it provide pedestrian friendliness and business district orientation to and use of transportation? As one example, especially tricky will be the handling of parking garage entry and access patterns and volume.
o The corner building must be a dramatic, signature draw creating a strong gateway while at the same time enticing people simultaneously along 53rd Street and into the new Harper Court. (One idea might be to brand the arch- including use an actual one in pedestrian walkway(s) into the Court.
o If it turns out to that it is the office building that must go at that corner, then its retail and entertainment/restaurants (which should be ample and major and perhaps rise more than two floors at one point) must be certain to open in conjunction with the office uses so as to create eyes-and-people on the street well into the evening, rather than going empty at 5 o’clock.

• Every effort should be made that what-goes-where and construction scheduling is determined by development logic rather than by accidents of tenant commitment or site vacation. (By the way, there is widespread preference that the developer own the land and development and make use decisions, rather than the University.)

• The parking—amount, configuration, access during rush times, and pricing have to be right.

• Plans and tenanting need to be looked at also in terms of improving 53rd Street and Lake Park Corridor business and not cherry pick from, separate the new from the old or leave behind the existing business district.

• Public space—while impressive, its usefulness is limited by its being outdoors. Is there a way to include a space that could be a culture and arts center (including perhaps outreach spaces from present art centers) and or space for winter markets? I note that there is little affordable meeting space presently in Hyde Park—could some of that need be accommodated here?

• Finally, people will have to be convinced that the financing truly is sound and that the product will be worth it, not only in terms of aesthetics and non-residential heft, but also by providing a broad range of what different markets want at prices they can afford.


From the March 1 vetting meeting of the 53rd St. TIF Planning and Development subcommittee

Gary Ossewaarde writes on March 2, 2010

I think the developer learned more from the questions and suggestions from the audience (which was not very large) than we did from them. There was a short PowerPoint overview that included a bit more on structure size possibilities, parking etc. The retail and restaurant-entertainment component and massing were, in my opinion, shown to be stronger/larger, more mixed, and more first-priority than under the first impression. Everything except the residential would be done in Phase I, which would be simultaneous. They did not have much of an answer on construction impacts, what happens to parking before the garage is done, traffic flow esp. on Lake Park. (The guy from the Dept. of Transportation said the developer has been asked to come in and talk to them next week, and full traffic studies will have to be done.)

Chuck organized the topics for discussion according to RFP-type categories: uses, density, massing, circulation, timing, staging, and next steps. Naturally, circulation (in and especially outside) the site had the most concerns. Chuck noted our letter of concern on that matter and that we ought to think of changes that may be needed outside the site.

Next followed by the kinds of housing structures including their timing, types, units, affordability, interface with surrounding buildings--especially the properties west of the building west of Harper. Intriguing suggestions that may not have sunk in included a north-south pedestrian throughway between Harper and Lake Park (north from 52nd Place) that could create an interface rather than a wall into the new Village Center.

There were also requests for internal activity and meeting space, use of every means possible to prevent a wind tunnel effect across from the Bank. And they were pushed a bit on the office building not being all UC, and queried why the office has to be at the corner--the developer had good answers and were firm on it, whether all would be convinced is another matter.

Committee meetings will continue.

The next TIF meeting is March 8, Monday, Kenwood Little Theater at 7. Topics are: ANTHEUS UPDATE ON VILLAGE CENTER AT LK PK AND E.HPB- preparatory to filing papers to start the process; report from this March 1 meeting, and CleanSlate's 2010 program.



Graphics from city presentation. Additional markers by Trish Morse.

Current site

Current site arial marked over by developer and Trish Morse

Looking east down future 52nd Pl., with added descriptions by Trish Morse


Below: picture of what the view might be eastward from Harper Avenue through the wide plaza-like 52nd Place;
possible views of the glass and stone structures; site plan.

Live: A blend of 170 market rate and affordable condominiums and 74 apartment units for those seeking the urban appeal of 53rd Street.

Play: A retail destination (150,000 square feet) to anchor the 53rd street corridor that will serve as a regional draw for the mid-south communities.

Learn: Community spaces that enhance collaboration among neighborhood, civic and ars-based groups, drawing linkages to Harper Court's history.

Work: The office environment will cater to institutional use and small business. Daytime employees will enhance 53rd Street retail viability.]

Plan view with descriptions and additional  markers by Trish Morse

A rendering of the corner of 53rd and Lake Park-- some question whether this is distinctive enough for the "gateway" of Hyde Park.

A rendering of the corner of 53rd and Lake Park-- parking tor ight, condo towere part seen in back at top. Some question whether this is distinctive enough for the "gateway" of Hyde Park.Sample view of a large retail building

A stret scene in the plaza  street. Added markings by Trish Morse