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The Harper Court finalists, March 2009

Brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee, and its website
Committee Chairman Gary Ossewaarde can be reached at

Breaking January 14, 2010: Vermilion selected. It is possible a special public meeting will be held in February 2010, then go to TIF committees open meetings.

Breaking: By Alby Gallun, Jan. 14, 2010
(Crain’s) — A downstate developer plans to knock down the Harper Court shopping center in Hyde Park and build a $200-million mixed-use project in its place.
The City of Chicago and the University of Chicago have picked Danville-based Vermilion Development to redevelop the site of the 40-year-old shopping center at 5211 S. Harper Ave., according to a news release from the city’s Department of Community Development (DCD). The university, which owns the retail center, and the city, which owns a parking lot next to it, are partners in the project.
Vermilion was selected from 12 firms that had responded to request for qualifications to develop the site.
Related story: U of C, city name finalists for mixed-use project
“The proposed development will complement and enhance other nearby revitalization efforts, helping to ensure Hyde Park’s future economic viability,” Acting DCD Commissioner Chris Raguso said in the release.
Once Harper Court is razed, Vermilion plans to redevelop the 128,000-square-foot site in three phases that may include restaurants, entertainment, retail and office space, the release said.
A Vermilion executive was not immediately available for comment late Thursday.

Details emerged on 5 finalists in March 2009 and were gradually elaborated including at the November 2010 TIF meeting. 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.

(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:

11 responses were received to the RFQ by the deadline of January 26, 2009. They have since been winnowed to 5 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. To list of finalists.

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. 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 [finalist list 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 five teams wil present their proposals, likely at the TIF meetings in July and September -- a shift from what city and university officials announced at the last 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.

According to the city's Web site, the development teams will submit their final proposals on May 11. Community presentations will take place in July and August 2009, with the final selection process happening in August and September. A purchase/lease redevelopment agreement will be executed by the end of the year.

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 TIF meeting. 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:

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.