Harper Court Sale #7. Late 2009 on the verge of the selection: What's in the finalists bids (as far as we were told)

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 (#6 mid 2009). Read the RFP.



Latest expectations/interpretations:

There will likely NOT be announcement, or at least presentation from, a selected final developer. The University of Chicago says has to undertake very careful discovery diligence to ensure the developer can and will finish the project. It is also usual that a contract (at least of intent) has to be signed before announcement. If nothing is ready for the January 11 TIF Advisory Council meeting (7 pm, Kenwood Academy Little Theater, a special meeting may well be scheduled for later.

November 9, 2009. FINALISTS FOR HARPER COURT REDEVELOPMENT WERE PRESENTED IN CONCEPTUAL OVERVIEW FORM, without ID. The proposals were similar: All open Harper Avenue and at least one creates a new "52nd Place" walkway that would have (low?) retail buildings on them, but maybe one higher also (one concept had one going somewhat off the grid and curved on the north side of the new 52nd place). Total retail is still 90-150 sf including the first building (quite high up to 25 stories) at the corner of Lake Park and 53rd. Park-like spaces would likely be near where the present plaza would be and at the north end of the site by Lake Park. 150,000 sf of UC office is still included, as well as a hotel, some residential, maybe a theater or gym or. The southeast part would be first. TIF money would almost certainly be involved, amount and uses are being "negotiated." At a forum for students, President Zimmer said Harper Court redevelopment is part of a strategy to to improve attractiveness and options in the suite of neighborhoods surrounding the University and will move forward despite financial problems of some of the developers.

Separately: There are reportedly some kind of differences in objectives between the City and the University.

The Herald says maps yield little in information, and why can't they be online if presented at a public meeting. (Maps were in the Nov. 18 Herald and were online in http://www.hpherald.com. Neither are very clear or portable. As close a look as possible show considerable differences. #1 seems to have a more prominent park. Two seem to chop the site into mini blocks. Many left with more questions than answers, which HPKCC is collecting into a focusing paper that may be released early in the new year.

The Herald reports that one proposals talks about the Harper Theater as for future adaptive reuse, another makes what seems to be a new street that may or may not be for traffic, a third shows a large building spanning a large part of the block.

Key elements as reported by the Herald:

  • Six new buildings
  • Future adaptive reuse of the Theater
  • Green space- maybe ground, maybe part of a green roof abutting Lake Park
  • Harper opened and two new streets, 52nd Place turning south as Harper court south to 53rd


  • Five parcels for five to seven new buildings
  • A building at 5210 S. Harper with rear parking
  • Harper through and two new- differing in that 52rd Place goes all the way to Lake Park


  • Three main buildings
  • One large building spans width of the block from S. Lake Park to S. Harper. Uses to include retail, fitness, hotel and parking
  • A building at the northwest corner Lake Park and 53rd with a curving/scalloped facade
  • building at 5210 Harper with parking in the rear
  • Harper opened but no other new streets

At the September 14 TIF meeting,

an overview was given by the city, saying the finalist would be selected and only that one would present, November 9-- which caused strong objection as Ald. Preckwinkle had promised the final 3 would present. She said she "heard" the objection. (Concerns were at a later time later expressed by reps of two organizations to the Alderman, who said she would convey this to the team.)
Plans are to build a structure comp. to Hyde Park Bank at nw. corner of 53rd and Lake Park, with a up to 25 stories building at the north end along Lake Park. These buildings are committed to retail, hotel and the rest office including heavy UC commitment and later residential (which not yet clear to this site). No details about what would be in Harper Court side or on parking, although Harper Avenue will be pushed through fairly soon.

There seems to be some confusion about when development would start after selection of developer at the end of 2009-- 24 months to start or to see something done? For Susan Campbell suggesting the former, see http://news.uchicago.edu/features/faq.53rd.street.tif.php.

Another puzzle piece? Members of the Hyde Park Garden Fair meting with UC facilities staff about the lead timeframe on the small garden they maintain by the parking lot at 53rd and Lake Park (and that was set up several years ago after a long struggle with the city) were told that nothing would happen through summer 2010, but might that fall (being considered as a target for Harper Court Area start by U of C), starting with the parking lot (and of course garden) and Hollywood Video. (the GF was assured there would be plenty of lead time for plant removal.) GO.

The following is taken for various attendee's (September 2009 TIF meeting) descriptions of finalists' concepts for the Harper Court Area (particularly George W. Rumsey and Jay Ammerman of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference:

Four finalists remain, Metropolitan having been dropped for financial plan reasons.
McCaffrey Interests/The Taxman Corp.
Mesa Development/Walsh Construction (TIF Council member Andre Brumfield has recused himself because part of the firm)
Vermilion/JFJ Development Co.

Common to the three:
Phased development would start from the northwest corner of Lake Park and 53rd with a building on the scale of Hyde Park Bank, to host a 150 unit boutique hotel and retail and office space.
Proceeding north on or near Lake Park would be an office and retail building of up to 25 stories. The University of Chicago is pledged to take up to 150,000 sq. ft. of office space (no word of what office space and how intensively staffed with people, but it was indicated that this is the only way development can proceed at this time. Also no word on what would be done with parking through loss of the current lot.)
Parking would be developed in back and hidden, with commitment to replace the current 180 spaces in the lot plus what is needed for the development (There is apparently difference or disagreement on how much, but in any case but nothing was said about parking for retail, which may not be required by ordinance in this walking-friendly and transit-oriented designated area, or for eventual residential).
Residential and more retail will likely be done later in the Harper Court area. Meanwhile Harper Avenue will be run through opened.

Plans call for 90-150,000 sf mixed retail-- stores, entertainment, restaurant, maybe a theater the Maroon coverage stressed theater, gym, restaurants); 150,000 office-- UC only??, cf space in Village Center is c. 40,000; 200 condo units later and 180 hotel rooms, parking, and some open space for gathering and or greenery. Building heights range from 3 to 25. As for Harper Theater (not in the development, although Hollywood Video is), any decisions will wait on refined plans for Harper Court or actual development and will be "complementary" to the development. The development will eventually include in the project new space for Park 52 (and the Checkerboard?).

Demolition of current will continue as needed and possible. Nothing will be finished much before 2012. (The developers apparently have differing approaches on the what-whens.)

Financing was said not be an issue. A major dispute is the intention of the UC and City to pick a winner and have them present, vs statement of the alderman earlier that 3 finalists would present first. Some thought the University's commitment to communication is weak.

From the official TIF minutes of the September 14 2009 meeting.

Alderman's Report: Ald. Preckwinkle briefly remarked on the progress of Harper Court RFP process and that a finalist would be presented at a future meeting, as well as ideas that emerged from all developers. James Wilson, of the City of Chicago, named team members from the city and introduced those present, as did Susan Campbell of U of C, who introduced the members from U of C.

Harper Court Presentation: Messrs. Timothy S. Brangle and Kimball T. Goluska, both of The Chicago Consultants Studio, presented a PowerPoint presentation of the selection process for redevelopment of Harper Court. Initially, 11 proposals had been submitted, with five selected. There are currently three finalists: McCaffrey/Taxman Corporate Partners, Mesa/Walsh and Vermillion/JPS Development Partners. Due Diligence and assessments are still ongoing. All proposals will include the Hollywood Video building on the corner of 53rd St. and Old Lake Park. The proposals from this stage of finalists include 90k to 150k sq ft of retail/entertainment/restaurant space, and uses to make the location a travel destination. 150k sq ft of office space is also proposed, in which the University has committed to be a major tenant. In a later phase, up to 200 residential units have been proposed, as well as well as a 150-room boutique hotel. Onsite parking is proposed and building heights range from 3 stories to 25 stories. Other amenities include open spaces/parks and a green-top roof.

The next steps will be to finalize and evaluate proposals for identification of a single preferred proposal, then at a future TIF meeting present a summary of proposals, and provide a detailed presentation, soliciting community input and comments. After the preferred proposal is presented, teh matter will be referred to our Planning and Development committee for detailed public discussion.

A question and answer period was conducted after the presentation (see attached).

The meeting ended at 8:25 p.m.

Submitted Respectfully,

Rod Sawyer

Attachment: Q/A on Harper Court. Committee- (TIF Committee members initials are in brackets)

Q. Effect on Theater building process? (AM)
A. Slowed because of duplicate uses with Harper Court.

Q. Effect on Park 52 building? (CT)
A. Included in development, but P52 has a long-term lease that will be honored.

Q. What happened to proposals that did not make the cut? (JC)
A. Some were non-responsive; others were close but had minor shortcomings. Note: Andre Brumfield has reminded the audience and council of a direct relationship with Mesa/Walsh and will recuse himself from all Council decisions regarding Harper Court.

Q. What are the phases? Can the developers begin immediately? (CT)
A. Residential will be in a later phase to be worked out in the proposals. Retail is ready because of the hotel and office components.

Q. What is your best guess on when the project will be complete or near complete? (AW)
A. Perhaps 2011, 2012, but cannot abe concrete.

Q/A- Audience (TIF Committee members initials are in brackets)

Q1. Will development be 100% ADA accessible?, Q2. Need for movie theater. Q3. Keep Olympics in mind.
A1. City mandates accessibility. (CT adds that visioning process goal was to exceed mandated accessibility.)
A2. Some of the proposals contain a theater, but cannot mandate it.
A3. Statement taken as commentary.

Q. Respond to criticism from Hyde Park Herald on demolition.
a. UC tried to move remaining tenants out by June, 2009, stated that demolition would begin two weeks after above mentioned move out date.

Q. Why was Hollywood Video building added to development but not Theater building?
A. UC came before the TIF council with the news of the Hollywood Video building purchased, and asked the current bidders if expanded space would fit [within the current proposals].

Q. It was thought that three presentations would be made to the community by the finalists. Why is there only the one selected developer who will present?
a. Alderman made commitment will revisit (Ald). Bring in best one, and send it back if we do not like it (AW). What was best [proposal], U of c or the community? (JC)

Q1. Will there be an effort to maintain parking during construction? Q2. Expressed surprise at the 25-story height. Q3. TIF was set up to generate funds for schools and parking, where's the parking? Q4. Can it [development] be phased in so that successful restaurants can stay beyond their leases?
A1. Depends on the phases, but the importance of keeping maintaining parking is realized.
A2. This was discussed at the visioning meetings. The understanding is to keep it set back from the Bank side (53rd street) and Lake Park Ave.
A3. The [final] developer will replace the 150 parking spaces in addition to the parking requirements new development will bring.
A4. The same plans involve keeping and/or incorporating them.

Q. How much of the [office space] will U of C occupy? How large is the [office] space?
A1. The current building that houses Village Foods (51st and Lake Park) is 42K sq ft. Proposals for the HC redevelopment state as much as three times that size (50K sq ft.)-Peter Cassel, MAC Properties.
A2. The proposed development won't be larger than the Hyde Park Bank building - James Wilson, City of Chicago.
A3. The RFP did not proscribe 150K sq ft. Developers presented square footage through the parameters developed in the workshops. - Susan Campbell, UC.

Q. Does the commercial square footage include the hotel?
A. No.

Q. Developers usually perform their own demolitions, but UC started - (question interrupted)
A. Did not give dates. Harper Ave. will be cemented from 52nd to 53rd STreet. Demolition is part of site preparation.

Q. Discuss further staging (like BSBCIL) building, [built in stages to increase number of floors][[?]])
A. would like to clarify and use the word "phases" to better explain office, hotel, and residential development. The finalist will present the project in entirety.

What the Oak Park Journal says about the kind of retail projects Taxman is adept at. October 2009

Taxman Corp. to build in Hyde Park?

The development company responsible for bringing the Gap and Old Navy to Oak Park, along with Whole Foods Market and Panera Bread in River Forest, is looking to build again - somewhere else.

Skokie-based Taxman Corp. is in the running to develop pieces of land in Hyde Park, owned by the city and the University of Chicago. Taxman Corp. is one of three finalists to develop the city-owned parking lot and a university-owned shopping center, according to a report last month in the Hyde Park Herald.

Taxman Corp. has been a notable entity in Oak Park and River Forest - creating the Shops of Downtown Oak Park (the complex that includes the Gap and Old Navy), River Forest Town Center I (Whole Foods), River Forest Town Center II (Panera), and the Euclid Commons building at Lake and Euclid.

Wednesday Journal named Seymour Taxman, founder and CEO of Taxman Corp., its Villager of the Year in 2001 for his company's active efforts in Oak Park and River Forest. And in 2006, his company sold two ballyhooed buildings in downtown Oak Park to the village for $7.5 million.

Eleven companies responded to a "request for proposals" issued by the City of Chicago in December. Taxman is one of three finalists. All three proposals include retail space, office space, a boutique hotel, residential units, a parking garage, and a public gathering space, according to the Hyde Park Herald.

It's down to 3- U. of C. narrows field of Harper developers

Hyde Park Herald, September 23, 2009. By Kate Hawley

Just three development teams are still in the running to redevelop the Harper Court shopping center and the adjacent parking lot, according to a presentation by city officials at the Monday, Sept. 1r meeting of the 53rd Street Tax-Increment Financing, or TIF, advisory council.

The city, which owns the parking lot, and the University of Chicago, which owns the shopping center, have been steadily narrowing the field of potential developers. Eleven teams responded to a request for proposal, or RFP, issued in December.

In March, the city and the university announced five finalists: The McCaffery Interests/The Taxman Corp., Mesa Development/Walsh Construction, Vermilion Development/JFJ Development Co., Metropolitan Properties/Heitman/Next Realty and Joseph Freed and Associates.

Metropolitan and Freed are now out, according to Timothy S. Brangle, a consultant for the city. Their proposals were "non-responsive" to the development parameters laid out in the RFP, he said. Those include creating a "vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood core" and featuring "high quality urban design and architecture," according to teh document, which is available online at cityofchicago.org.

City officials expressed confidence in the remaining contenders. "We have three very talented teams, and any one of them can produce a quality project, in our mind," said Kimbal T. Goluska, another consultant to the city on the project.

Each of the three finalists plans to incorporate the Hollywood Video property at 1530 E. 53rd st. This will allow the development to occupy a prominent spot on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Lake Park Avenue, the consultants said. The university bought the Hollywood Video site in January, a month after the RFP was issued. University officials have held out the possibility that it may be included in the Harper Court redevelopment.

The university has no current plans to make the site even bigger by adding the Harper Theater/Herald Building, a property it owns at the northwest corner of 53rd street and Harper Avenue, said Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement. The university is vetting proposals for Herald/Theater building. "Some of those proposals had duplicative ideas as were presented for Harper Court, and we wanted to make sure we were complimentary," she said.

Several members of teh TIF council asked how quickly the Harper Court development will proceed. The consultants didn't lay out a precise timeline. But Goluska said that after the roughly one-year process of gaining city approval, followed by 18 months of construction, the development could start "feeling open" some time just shy of 2012."

A developer will be chosen likely before the end of the year. The community will get a "detailed presentation" by [the] preferred development team," according to the consultants' slide show.

Hyde Park resident George Rumsey asked why all three finalist developers wouldn't get a chance to present, as Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) earlier promised. "It was a commitment that I made," she told the crowd. "I will take this back to our team."

Other questions from the council and the crowd of about 75 that gathered at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone ave., focused on when the remaining Harper Court buildings will be demolished and the proposed development's density and size, noting that the tallest building could be 25 stories. Campbell told the audience to stay tuned for demolition and other developments by reading the University of Chicago's blog, fiftythird.uchicago.edu. The consultants stressed that the density in each proposal is consistent with community response garnered at a series of three public workshops last year.

All three remaining Harper Court proposals contain:

  • 90,000 to 150 square feet of retail, entertainment and restaurant use
  • 150,000 square feet of office space, most of it to be used by the university. "The university has made the commitment for the office space," according to Susan Campbell...
  • Boutique hotel with 150 rooms or more
  • Up to 200 residential units (apartments or condos), likely to come in a later phase to give the housing market time to pick up
  • A parking structure screened from street view
  • Public gathering space in a streetscaped area, park or green roof.