Harper Court Area Redevelopment #6- from early and mid into fall 2009- details of the RFP and semi finalists and controversy over demolition relocation of tenants

Presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee (Chair Gary Ossewaarde), and its hydepark.org website. Reach us at hpkcc@aol.com. Writer: Gary Ossewaarde

Return to Harper Court Sale homepage. Previous (#5 about the RFP and much of 2008 and early 2009). Next (#7 late 2009). Read the RFP.


August 14 2009 demolition began of the south (Dixie Kitchen) building in Harper Court. Calypso Cafe in the structure to the north has a temporary ramp.

Demolition picture 1 (c. August 15, 2009) by Jay Ammerman:

Herald August 19 2009. Their take was that it was not communicated to anyone- media, neighbors. In fact, UC VP Ann Marie Lipinski did not mention at a meeting with the Herald the day before. The Herald contrasted alleged lack of communication and community/collaboration on the university's part now with how it was when Harper was started in the 1960s.

...the jaws of a piece of heavy construction equipment tore into the back of he space formerly occupied by Dixie Kitchen. The demolition of the one unoccupied building, which formerly housed Artisans 21 and the Dixie Kitchen& Bait Shop, will be completed in about two weeks, according to Steve Kloehn, a spokesman for the University of Chicago. He said the remaining two buildings are not scheduled for demolition until remaining tenants are relocated. "It's fair to say once they're completely vacant, for reasons of cost and security, we will want to move fairly quickly," Kloehn said. ...

...A construction worker at the site said they would soon take jackhammers tot he walkway adjoining that building to the one to its immediate north which houses Calypso Cafe. Harper Court was originally constructed as a site for businesses displaced by Urban Renewal or desired.

Ann Marie Lipinski of UC Civic Engagement replied in the Herald that the latter must have missed their announcement and that it was widely known (or at least to Ald. Preckwinkle and the TIF Council) that demolition would start in August. She also pointed out the heavy consultation all along with the community and its many organizations including HPKCC, which she called collectively "partners." She also called attention to the fiftythird.uchicago.edu site.

The Herald retorted on September 9- Information still lacking from the university
We know we live in a company town -- Hyde Park. We know that the company is really important to us and that without it our neighborhood would probably sink into the vast pool of the rest of Chicago, and the sense of neighborhood would be gone and us along with it.

However, one of our more difficult roles is that of commenting on the emperor's new clothes. When we say things are not what the university would like them to be, really catch it. The last few weeks are a remarkable example of the problem. On August 13, we spent more than an hour with the university's new Office of Civic Engagement. We suggested that their communication with the community was not what it should be and that people did not know what their plans were for remaking the vast section of the 5200 block at Lake Park and Harper Avenues.

We asked many different ways for information on the schedule of the planning. What were the next steps? When would a public schedule be released? We were assured there was a schedule, that the nature of the university's partnership with the city (which owns the parking lot at that intersection) required a schedule be in place. But we were not given details.

And when we came back to work the next day, we were surprised and hocked to find demolition of Harper Court had started and a great machine was tearing out the heart of Dixie Kitchen. (We will leave to another moment the question of why the Harper Court building that housed Dixie Kitchen had to go and the Harper Court building that houses the University of Chicago-sponsored Park 52 was renovated.)

We then wrote an editorial, we must admit, in much anger. we admit that we were incensed at the lack of information to the community, but we also were very put out because we are in the news business and we did not have a story our readers would want. And we had been talking to a journalist. So in addition to saying the university does not communicate to teh community we gave a real shot at the new head of teh university's new Office of Civic Engagement, who happens to be the former editor of Chicago's major newspaper.

The response was a letter to the editor in last week's Herald. The university said they announced demolition at a June meeting of teh 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council and advised the Herald readers to refer to a new blog they had launched for information about Harper Court.

But it turns out that there was no June TIF meeting, that no one knew the schedule and that demolition was not referred to at either the May or July TIF meetings, according to minutes of those meetings prepared by council members. The Web site has no information about demolition at Harper Court.

We rest our case.


Harper Council Arts Council update.

Harper Court was sold to the university last May [2008] by the nonprofit Harper Court Arts Council, whose secretary, Mary Anton came to teh TIF meeting to give an overview of the organization's grant-making activities. Last December, in its inaugural round of grants, the arts Council gave away $300,000. This year the Arts Council has four grant cycles. Applications for the first cycle were due feb. 25, according to the Arts Councils' Web site... Anton declined to say exactly how much the Arts Council netted from the sale after taxes and other expenses.




Tales from some blogs on responders and finalists

The University has included for the finalists the option of including the former Hollywood Video building.
According to the U of C. blog on Harper Court by Kadesha Thomas, - http://fiftythird.uchicago.edu/?q=node15 at the July 2009 TIF meeting, James Wilson of the city reported the number of developers has been winnowed to 4 (Since 3). They only want "doable" projects. The presentation meeting may be postponed to October.

Here is the complete:

And then there were four
15 July 2009
Posted by kadeshathomas
The City and the University have narrowed the field of candidates to four in their search for the right development team for Harper Court, James Wilson of the Department of Community Development told the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, a community group, on Monday.
Five finalists had submitted proposals earlier this month, and four of those met the terms of the request for proposals Wilson said all four had creative ideas and all included plans for hotel, retail, entertainment, office, residential and parking spaces.
City and University representatives will interview the remaining teams this week and next, and examine their plans to make sure the proposals are viable.
Those proposals that make the next cut will be presented to the TIF Council this fall, possibly as early as the regularly scheduled September 14 meeting.
“We don’t want to bring anything to you that’s not doable,” Wilson told the TIF Council Monday. “We need to go through this process and make sure the ones we bring you are truly good ones.”
That could be all four, or it could be just one or two, Wilson said.
Members of the Council and the public said they are anxious for the project to move forward, and glad to see signs of progress. TIF Council Chair Howard Males underscored the urge to move forward, promising to schedule a special meeting in October if the presentation was not ready for the September meeting.


(Hyde Park Urbanist has blog article on this portion of the January 2009? TIF meeting, with links to most of the developers and a few of their properties: http://alwaysintransit.typepad.com/hyde_park_urbanist/2009/03/tif-university-presents-harper-court-developer-finalists.html.)

Details emerge on 5 finalists. From bare bones given they seem impressive firms with experience in this kind of mixed development, with thoughtful ideas that take into account what community surveys and exercises have said is wanted. That they will all present from July through September is settled; what is best in each and how "affordable" in the (if TIF-subsidized) housing component (likely to include graduate students) will be met and defined remain to be worked out (Note Ald Preckwinkle says in May 2009 that any graduate housing component will not count toward the 20 percent affordable housing component) :

11 responses were received to the RFQ by the deadline of January 26, 2009. They have since been winnowed to 5 or 6 who will be preparing proposals due in May. All are said to have a graduate student component and 2 to have hotels.

It was said at the TIF meeting March 9 that at least some proposals have a "graduate housing component." Needing clarification is whether that would satisfy a "20 percent affordable" component promised for any housing part of the project getting TIF subsidy-- and whether it should. Also, what is "adult active living". Gary Ossewaarde

U of C, city name finalists for mixed-use project March 9, 2009.

(Crain’s) — The city of Chicago and the University of Chicago have cut the field of real estate firms competing for a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the Harper Court shopping center to five developers. The finalists, picked from a field of 11 teams, will submit proposals to redevelop a nearly three-acre site at 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue in Hyde Park. A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Community Development confirms that the five finalists are:

• Block 37 developer Chicago-based Joseph Freed & Associates LLC.

• A joint venture of Chicago-based developer McCaffery Interests Inc. and Skokie-based Taxman Corp.

• A joint venture of Chicago-based Mesa Development and Chicago construction giant Walsh Group.

• Chicago-based developer Metropolitan Properties of Chicago LLC, a firm better known for its residential condominium conversions of older downtown office buildings.

• Vermilion Development Inc., a small Danville firm that opened a Chicago office last year.

The winning bidder is expected to be selected this fall. The project would provide a developer “with a unique opportunity to creatively reshape this area into a cohesive, active neighborhood core,” according to a request for qualifications issued in December. In broad outlines, city and university officials are seeking a retail/residential development that would include a parking structure for 170 to 400 cars.

The site includes the shopping center, which would be demolished, and an adjacent city-owned parking lot. The project is expected to preserve an existing 14,300-square-foot building at 5201 S. Harper Court, which houses the Park 52 restaurant and the Checkerboard Lounge blues club. The project’s cost could be offset with a tax-increment financing subsidy, according to the request for qualifications.
The site has an appraised value of $7.55 million, but a developer’s “purchase price is an important but not primary consideration” for the city and the university, the RFQ says.

Herald fleshes in details on then-five finalists. March 18, 2009. By Kate Hawley

Five development teams have made the short list to redevelop the Harper Court shopping center and adjacent city-owned parking lot. The city and the University of Chicago, which bought Harper Court in May [2008] for $6.5 million, are in the process of choosing a developer for the roughly three-acre site, centered at 52nd Street and Harper Avenue.

They listed a request for proposal, or RFP, in December, and received 11 responses from development teams, according to Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement for the university. She announced the finalists Monday, March 9, at a meeting of the 53rd Street Tax-Increments Financing, or TIF, Advisory Council, held at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

The proposals [see below] came from of the biggest names in Chicago real estate. Joseph Freed and Associates LLC is developer of the massive Block 37 development in the Loop. Mesa Development LLC and Walsh Construction is the team behind LaSalle Park, the 18-acre project that did much to bring retail options to the South Loop. A TIF council member, Andre Bromfeld, works with Mea, and so will be recusing himself rom any decision-making about the RFP process, he announced.

Heitman, a real estate investment management firm that is partnering with Metropolitan Properties and Next Realty, has local experience, having worked on the new Hyde Park Art Center at 5020 S. cornell Ave. The company was also behind University Center, the multi-institutional dorm at State Street and Congress Parkway.

Lesser-known companies are also represented, such as Vermillion development, which has a portfolio of mixed-use developments in university towns. McCaffery Interests Inc. and the Taxman Corporation would use their mixed-use "Market Commons" concept, already executed in Clarendon, Va., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Though details have not been nailed down at this early stage, Campbell shared some of the major elements in each proposal. Most of them include retail, commercial, graduate student housing and hotel uses. Campbell said the proposals reflected community input from three "visioning workshops" held over the course of the last year that were sponsored by the city, the university, Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and a wide array of local organizations.

The community will get the chance for more input in the coming months. All finalist teams will present their proposals [sneaks without identification were given in November 2009], -- a shift from what city and university officials announced at the TIF meeting on Jan. 12. Campbell and James Wilson of the city's Department of Community Development said then that only one candidate -- the top pick -- would present, while Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) argued that the community should hear from at least three front-runners.

How quickly the winning development team can move forward from that point depends on its ability to get financing, potentially a challenging proposition given the slumping economy

In the meantime, the university is moving ahead with its plans to clear out the Harper Court complex by June 30. Calypso Cafe, which according to owner Carol Andresen has a lease through 2012, will end its lease by June 30, Campbell said at the January TIF meeting ]actually will likely stay until 2012[ . She also said that Park 52 and the Checkerboard Lounge would be allowed to hang onto their leases. That's because the building they occupy, at 5201 S. Harper Ave., will not be torn down to make way for the Harper Court redevelopment.

Hyde Park resident Robin Kaufman asked campbell what the university plans to do with a now-closed Hollywood Video store at 1530 E. 53rd St., property it purchased in January. "Whether or not that gets combined with Harper Court or gets developed independently, the goal is to revitalize 53rd, Campbell said.


List of finalists, from the March 18 Herald

(Hyde Park Urbanist has blog article on this portion of the TIF meeting, with links to most of the developers and a few of their properties: http://alwaysintransit.typepad.com/hyde_park_urbanist/2009/03/tif-university-presents-harper-court-developer-finalists.html.)

As provided to the Herald by the University of Chicago.

Mesa Development/Walsh Construction

Vermillion Development

Metropolitan Properties/Heitman/Next Realty

McCaffery Interests/The Taxman Corp.

Joseph Freed and Associates


Herald thinks community winning so far. Interprets naming of, plans for all finalists to present, as a major reversal

March 18, 2009.

We are pleased at the unexpected reversal of plans by the University of Chicago to name only the finalists of its search for a developer for Harper Court. Last Monday, five development teams were introduced to the community at the 53rd street TIF Council's monthly meeting. At first glance, they all appear to be variously qualified to take on the job. We note diversity in the uses of a new Harper Court, but, in the consistency of those uses as presented by each development team, we get a sense of the university's intent. The university appears to want a boutique hotel at the spot, as well as some residential, both for students and perhaps for others as well. All of this, of course, is in addition to retail space and possibly business offices.

Diversity of use on this location is an important change in the purpose of the property and one that we think could improve use of the site. That diversity will in turn create a helpful mix of folks coming to the new Harper Court to live, work and shop.

The other consistent theme among the developer's notes on the new Harper Court is density. There are many places where we have said that density would not be appropriate in the neighborhood, where zoning changes did not make sense. Harper Court is not one of those places. It is already a planned development, so the developer would not be getting a "special favor" if the density of the location changed. And the truth is, we need density close to the transit arteries and retail clusters. An increase in the n umber of residents living and working on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue would benefit the entire neighborhood.

We like the idea discussed of phasing in the project. Especially in difficult economic times, let's try to get this project built in "doable" increments. There is no ned to make this a massive undertaking that chokes major Hyde Park thoroughfares. The work will be disruptive even in phases, but perhaps more manageably so.

the university has unexpectedly opened a door into the process for perhaps its most important project in the neighborhood at present. Hyde Parkers should digest as much information about these developers as they can get their hands on and let the university know just what they think. Besides improving the ultimate outcome, such feedback will signal to the university that the neighborhood will take advantage of and appreciate o pen dialogue. Although it may not seem to be a lesson that need to be repeated, we cannot say to the university enough times that open, transparent processes are to the benefit of both themselves and the neighborhood.



At April 24 2009 UC Outreach Forum, businesswoman challenges UC to have rents affordable to local businesses in the new Harper Court

[Ann Marie Lipinski, VP for Civic Engagement] included the redevelopment of the Harper Court shopping center and the adjacent city-owned parking lot among the university's outreach efforts, saying that the retail and residential complex planned for the site will boost vitality along Hyde Park's 53rd Street corridor.

During a question and answer session, Sandra Bevans asked if Harper Court's rents will be at levels local business people can afford. "So they're not having to pay $2,500 to $3,000 to rent some space." Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement, said that while it's too early to say what rent levels at the new complex will be, the university is helping business owners currently in Harper Court to find new locations they can afford. Top

From the minutes of the July 13, 2009 TIF meeting:

Harper Court Update: James Wilson, City of Chicago representative, and Essie Banks, also from his office, gave an update on proposals submitted. Susan Campbell and Jim Hennessey from the University of Chicago were also present. (This development site is jointly owned by these two entities.) Of the 5 original finalists, 4 remain. Their proposals will be presented on July 16 and 17 at the University of Chicago. By the end of summer (hopefully by the sept. 13th TIF Council meeting) the best of these proposals will be vetted to the community. If not, a special TIF meeting will be called for in October. (Note: TIF Council members Jo Reizner and andre Brumfield have excluded themselves from any discussion/voting on this site development because of possible conflict of interest.)

Questions from TIF Council members and the audience concerned the privately owned parking spaces (the Alderman has assured that this will be handled properly); whether Hollywood Video site is part of the project (it is); and elements of the RFP (retail, entertainment, residential, parking, hotel, office).

On the whole, those in attendance seemed pleased that progress is being made and that plans will be shared with the community.

Other Issues: A question was raised about whether or not development of the U. of C. owned property at 53rd and Harper (the former movie theater site) will included demolition or rehab. According to Susan Campbell, both possibilities remain.