53rd-Harper (Harper Theater and Herald bldg.) "Heart of Hyde Park" RFP Guidelines for redevelopment, The University of Chicago- and the final development decision

This page is a product and community service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Preservation-Development-Zoning Committee, and its website, www.hydepark.org. The Conference, since 1949, has tended to the civic needs of the community and facilitates resident and business participation in building a caring, diverse, attractive and secure community. You can reach us at hpkcc@aol.com. Join HPKCC and help support our work.

Harper Theater history page. History and Preservation home. Development home. Business Climate. Zoning home. TIF News home. TIF District maps. TIF Adv. Council meetings.
Links on preserving/adapting theaters: http://www.lib.umd.edu/NTLA/theaters.html#history, Also American Film Institute.
U of C website on 53rd Street: http://fiftythird.uchicago.edu.
Return links: hot topics home, hot development home

Visit this linked page To learn of the role of HPKCC in the saving and redevelopment of the Harper Theater (from June 2011 Reporter)

October 26 2013 Landmarks Illinois will honor Harper Theater and the folks that saved it and made it a great working theater. Visit Landmarks.org.

UChicago article on Harper Theater and other revitalization of 53rd St. May 17, 2013. http://www.harpertheater.com/revitalized-53rd-street-energizes-community/ Theater website http://www.harpertheater.com.

In this page:

Visit this linked page To learn of the role of HPKCC in the saving and redevelopment of the Harper Theater (from June 2011 Reporter)

See a video from Medill School of Journalism on the Theater and its renovation, January 2012. http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=199168.

Harper Theater. http://www.harpertheater.com. 5238 S. Harper Ave. 60615. info@harpertheater.com. 773 690-9200. Sign up for e-messages of shows, cafe, etc. from website. 4 screens, showings start January 18 2013.

All inspections have been met and the place of amusement certificate delivered the 4-screen theater has opened. Prices $8 general after ? pm, $7 students with ID, $6 seniors, children and all matinees. They need to advertise and people need to patronize.

Statement of Jack Spicer about saving the building, in Landmarks Illinois' Preservation News February 2013. (Spicer is a board member of HPKCC, the HP Historical Society, and Southside Preservation Action Fund and active in city and statewide preservation organizations, all instrumental in producing and engineering study and convincing the U of C to preserver and repurpose the buildings including for a 4-screen theater.

"Ten years later (after the University's purchase of the property)the University is set to reopen the completely renovated complex as a corner stone of the now flourishing retail district.. Thanks to the University of Chicago's vision and the support of the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference., the Hyde Park Historical Society and Landmarks Illinois, the Harper Theater Building have ben given a chance for another hundred years of robust public life."

The article also said that Landmark Illinois put the buildings ion its 2008-09 Chicagoland Watch List and that the 1913 complex, built as a vaudeville theater and office building, had its brick and white terra cotta facades repaired, retail/office space renovated and the theater (which had been renovated in the 1960s) remodeled into a 4-screen megaplex.

The theater was at or nearing completion in late December. A MAJOR DELAY DEVELOPED AT THAT TIME.
According to the Hyde Park Herald, January 2 2013, developer and operator Tony Fox told the Herald that the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protections requires a 60-day window before issuing a business license, which Fox says he thought was taken care of when the project went before the Zoning Board in December 2011. But the waiting period was set in motion at the end of October 2012. 20 registered voters live within 200 feet of a project can register objections or otherwise comment in that window-- and signs were posted and notices went to the registered voters. No objections are known to have been posted. The waiting period expired December 29. Another public hearing will now be held. Once opened, the theater will provide 15 part-time jobs and generate taxes. Neither Mr. Fox nor the Herald mentioned that at least the lobby interior was not finished, at least as of the third week of December.

(Regulations are generally extremely complicated and often capriciously applied according to the business community despite some recent reforms, or promises of them. The arrangement between the Mayor and UC President Zimmer (with consent of the applicable aldermen) to expedite projects apparently didn't help. The Herald carried an editorial "suggesting" the city get its act together in a time of business uncertainty.)

The marquee went up....final work continued in fall 2012. ADF Capital, CEO Tony Fox is the renovator. Property owner remains the University of Chicago.

An issue in summer 2012 was accommodating trash pickup and deliveries to the theater. Being requested by the Alderman is creating or reactivating a short(tight) alley between the Herald building and the United Church. This would require no parking between 5 am an 9 am. The theater owner told a public meeting Oct. 15, 2012 they will be very careful about cleanup.

As of October 15, the adjacent church agreed to give a letter of consent for "ancillary" liquor license. The alderman is sponsoring PPA (public place of amusement) licensing for the theater. To see what that involves, visit the city site https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/progs/inspectionspermitting/public_place_of_amusement.html

The four-screen (raked screens) Harper Cinema and Cafe are scheduled to open in November 2012 on the first floor of the building at Harper and 53rd. it wil show newly released films- 60% art films and some blockbusters. Tony Fox is, owner of the operator- realty firm ADF Capital; partner is Susan Casty. General manager is Tom Klein, who also manages the New 400 Theater in 6740 N. Sheridan Strip Center. Ticket prices are expected to be $6 matinee and $7.50 evening with a dollar discount for students.

In addition to announcement of Five Guys hamburger emporium (in the west part of the Herald bldg.), likelihood of other shops or uses (incl. for 2nd floor) with whom they are in negotiation. Intent was that only two film-screening theaters would be there (unless an arrangement is made with a specialty such as DOC Films), the others being for performance, and a big room upstairs for perfomance and meetings. Films would include art, children's, and of a non-violent popular run. About 250 seats. Official address is 5234 S. Harper.

It would seem to some that the University was either making assumptions or did not fully present the additional city steps that would be necessary to allow a theater--it seems that by modern ordinance such as use is not allowed so close to a religious institution, United Church. The University found it had to seek an exception in order to get an amusement licence, and the hearing was held December 7 2011 at the License and Consumer Protection Committee.
Raising concern was the University and operator's assertion that, ON THE BASIS OF PAST USE BEING RESUMED, THE USE NEED NOT PROVIDE ANY PARKING. Ald. Fioretti said making that exception posed major precedent and far reaching effect.

In any case, December 7, the exemption for 5234 S. Harper Ave was granted. This will allow issuance of an amusement license. (Full City Council approval was considered likely on December 14.) A gaff (or failure to anticipate) appeared to be that no one was present from the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce to answer a question about its approval -- it does, but it has been practice for someone to appear from the Chamber at such hearings, or send SECC with a proxy. (Mr. Fox of the theater operator said they will show children's and art pictures, and no first runs with violence or extolling of gangs or violence. Mr. Fox has been asked to join the Chamber board.)

The question of liquor was raised. This would require a separate petition and approval-- Mr. Fox said they do intend to pursue that once the neighborhood is comfortable with theater operation.

Theater operator picking team for theater buildout in December 2011, reveals more of hopes.

Gutting had been completed by the end of 2011, Tony Fox of New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park told the December 28 Herald. "We want to e-envision it not just as a theater, but re-imagine it as a more intimate experience," according to architect Richard Nelson of IIT's College of Architecture. He wants to "put the emphasis on slowing down" in a space were people will want to linger. Fox (who is now a member of Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce board), wants the theater active beyond the movies with blood drives, poetry slams, and other events. Metropolis Coffee will be a part of the mix according to Tony Dreyfuss, owner of Metropolis and has been asked How can we make the coffee a part of this theater? Tom Klein, manager of the Rogers Park complex, is expected to manage the theater. The University of Chicago owns the property and paying for the rehab. Exterior construction should be done by March. OKW appears to be the architect.
The theater intends to use state-of-the-art digital projection, with one at least having the lounge-style popularized in California: tables between seats for food service or ordering. Prices will be below market prices, with further discounts for seniors, children, and students-- Hey, can we hope for return of "Senior Cinema"?

Earlier University press release:

New five-screen movie theater coming to 53rd Street
The University of Chicago is bringing The New 400 Theaters, an independent movie operator that will offer a mix of art, children's and wide-release films, to the soon-to-be renovated buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

The 10,149-square-foot theater plan includes five screens with state-of-the-art digital projection. One screening room will have tables placed between the seats for future lunch and dinner options.

The New 400 Theaters plans to discount tickets for students, seniors and children. General-admission seating will be below market prices.

"The theater, along with other strategic revitalization efforts, will bring added value to the area. It is one more piece of our ongoing conversations with the City and the neighborhood to build Hyde Park as a key destination on the South Side of Chicago," said Susan Campbell, Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement.

The New 400 Theaters opened its first venue in Rogers Park in July 2009. That site, built in 1912 near Loyola University and formerly known as Village North, is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the country.

Tony Fox, owner and operator of The New 400 Theaters, said the Hyde Park location was ideal due to its close proximity to the campus and the overall commitment from the community to upkeep its neighborhood.

"We are proud to bring our theater to Hyde Park, a place where people really care about their community," said Fox. "My passion is community service, and we hope to continue in the same tradition as we have done in Rogers Park -- to bring safe, reliable and sound entertainment to the area."

Fox said his business partner, Tom Klein, will serve as general manager in Hyde Park. Klein is also the general manager for The New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park.

He said they are interested in talking with Doc Films, the University student group that screens diverse films each quarter for students, faculty, staff and the community, to see if there are potential partnerships that could work in the new theater model.

The movie theater has a targeted opening date of fall 2012.

[Tony Fox of New 400 stressed at the TIF meeting that the stress will be on art films and one screen will be for digital 3-D.]

Herald, March 2, 2011 By Sam Cholke

The University of Chicago announced Feb. 24 that it has lured a five-screen theater to the long-vacant Harper Theater Building. The building at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue was recently home to the art exhibition, Art Here Art Now, but Monday morning masonry workers were inspecting the exterior of the historic theater and painting over windows in preparation to rehab the structure.

The main section of the building, which faces Harper, will be turned over to New 400 Theaters, which operates a four-screen theater in Rogers Park for new films. The university announced in January that the hamburger restaurant chain Five Guys would be moving into one of the 5erd Street facing retail spaces.

Plans to rehab the theater stalled in May 2008 when the university fired Brinshore Development and Baum Realty from the project. When the university purchased the neighboring harper Court shopping center property, there was widespread speculation that the historic theater would be torn down. With the announcement of the Five Guys lease, the university confirmed it would continue the rehab of the building and work on restoring the facade has already begun.

The university is still in the process of leasing out the other retail spaces, but the New 400 deal means the building has a tenant for its largest space. New 400 operates one four screen theater currently in the former Regents Theater in Rogers Park, a historic building originally a vaudeville and movie house. The theater, which opened in 2009, shows new films and its owner say they plan to do the same in Hyde Park. In a statement issued by the university, the theater owners said they would also be discussing partnerships with Doc Films, the student and faculty run film group on campus.

New 400 is partially owned by ADF Capital, a real estate investment firm that invests mostly in Rogers Park and the north suburbs. The firm has invested in several locations on the North Side, all anchored by a major retail client, including Starbucks, Bank of America an Burger King. Its portfolio includes both new development and historic buildings like the landmark 6740 N. Sheridan Strip Center near Loyola University.

The new theater is expected to open in the all of 2012.

Additional from the Maroon, Feb. 25,by Adam Janofsky.

..."We believe students, staff, and faculty will be interested in this venture," said University Senior Communications Officer Wendy Parks. "It's going to bring increased foot traffic, come excitement, especially the entertainment."

The theater will offer a student discount. At their Rogers Park location, general admission is $7.50 and student admission is $6.50 with student ID. Showings before 6 p.m. have the matinee price of $5.00. ...

Some students involved with Doc Films expressed excitement for the new theater, and weren't worried about the competition. "It would appeal to a totally different audience," said Doc Film's second-year Volunteer Chair Michaeljit Sandhu. "We will be happy that there will be more movies in Hyde Park.

Parks said the new theater will bring jobs to the area and that the University kept the community as a top concern in the development, which was planned to save teh empty set of buildings along Hyde Prk avenue [sic] "it was a good fit... Fox is committed to community service and having a business that can be sustainable in the community," she said.

From an unknown source via 1537 News:

Chicago plans to bring The New 400 Theaters, an independent movie operator that will offer a mix of art, children's and wide-release films, in the soon-to-be renovated buildings at 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

The 10,149-square-foot theater plan includes five screens with state-of-the-art digital projection. One screening room will have tables placed between the seats for future lunch and dinner options.

The New 400 Theaters plans to discount tickets for students, seniors and children. General-admission seating will be below market prices.

The agreement with The New 400 Theaters is part of a broader effort to revitalize the 53rd Street corridor as a focus of commercial, retail and entertainment activity.

"The theater, along with other strategic revitalization efforts, will bring added value to the area. It is one more piece of our ongoing conversations with the City and the neighborhood to build Hyde Park as a key destination on the South Side of Chicago," said Susan Campbell, Associate Vice President of Civic Engagement.

The New 400 Theaters opened its first venue in Rogers Park in July 2009. That site, built in 1912 near Loyola University and formerly known as Village North, is one of the oldest continuously operating movie theaters in the country.

Tony Fox, owner and operator of The New 400 Theaters, said the Hyde Park location was ideal due to its close proximity to the campus and the overall commitment from the community to upkeep its neighborhood.

"We are proud to bring our theater to Hyde Park, a place where people really care about their community," said Fox. "My passion is community service, and we hope to continue in the same tradition as we have done in Rogers Park -- to bring safe, reliable and sound entertainment to the area."

Fox said his business partner, Tom Klein, will serve as general manager in Hyde Park. Klein is also the general manager for The New 400 Theaters in Rogers Park.

He said they are interested in talking with Doc Films, the University student group that screens diverse films each quarter for students, faculty, staff and the community, to see if there are potential partnerships that could work in the new theater model.

The movie theater has a targeted opening date of fall 2012.


From the July 13, 2009 TIF meeting minutes: 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) included demolition or rehab. According to Susan Campbell, both possibilities remained. Since went to redevelopment within existing shell.
In discussions of the Structural Study with the University, a leaning toward keeping and reusing the building was discerned.
Such hopes seemed have some life in the July 12 2010 TIF meeting when the Harper Court developer explicitly referred to additional retail in a restored Harper Theater. This was prescient.

Rendering of Harper Theater/53rd Street "Heart of Hyde Park" redevelopment. Brinshore, Baum and Baum, University of Chiicago. From Hyde Park Herald,  November 25, 2006

Description, from Hyde Park Historical Society Preservation Committee, November 2008.

The Harper Theater buildings are included in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings also were identified as having "community significance" (OR-rated) in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. In September of this year they were placed on Landmarks Illinois' 2008 "Chicagoland Watch List" of the most significant buildings in the Chicago area that are in danger of demolition. (http://www.landmarks.org/2008_3.htm)

The Harper Theater buildings form a mixed-use corner commercial development with retail storefronts on the first floor and office spaces on the second floor of the south-facing 53rd Street wing, and a 3-story theater building facing east on Harper Avenue. The style is "prairie school / arts and crafts" with high-quality brick work and white terra cotta trim by Midland Terra Cotta Company. The storefronts and offices of the commercial building are mostly original and in good condition. The theater portion was built as a 1,200-seat vaudeville house and was converted to a movie theater in 1935. Its original and very small entrance was on 53rd Street with an elaborate terra cotta exit on Harper Avenue. As part of the 1930s conversion to a movie house and due to new fire regulations, the original entrance on 53rd Street was converted to a small barber shop and the original exit on Harper was remodeled as a large open entrance with ticket window and lobby. The elaborate Midland terra cotta work of the original exit was replaced by blue and gold Art Deco terra cotta panels by Northwest Terra Cotta Company. The original Midland shop drawings are available for use in any restoration effort. The Harper Theater Buildings are one of three historic corner buildings still standing at Hyde Park's important commercial intersection of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

The commercial and theater buildings have been owned by the University of Chicago (UofC) since 2002. In 2006, U of C contracted with Baum Realty and Brinshore Development to redevelop the site. Rather than demolishing the buildings, Baum and Brinshore created a preservation plan that would have adaptively reused the Harper Theater buildings as a mixed-use retail/restaurant/office complex. This approach would have taken advantage of federal historic tax credits and local preservation assistance programs to help finance this sophisticated preservation project. However, in May of this year the UofC terminated the contract with the developers. The commercial and theater buildings now stand vacant. UofC owns adjoining properties which could result in a large-scale demolition to create a single redevelopment site located in the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Representatives of the University recently stated publicly that "the Harper Theater buildings probably wouldn't make it through another winter." Top


NOT LONG BEFORE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE 5-SCREEN "400" THEATER, UC announced that Five Guys hamburger place slated for Harper Theater. Opening at the end of 2011 by this first tenant will follow cleanup and renovation. UC spokesperson Wendy Parks [?] is quoted in the Maroon that UC "has taken action to save these buildings" and is "committed to maintaining the integrity of these buildings." She added that OKW architects of Chicago tailored the project to community input. Renovation includes interior, facade, and "overall character." Windows will be redone and space created for signage. Five Guys will have an outdoor seating area with "attractive awnings."

Reuse of the Harper Theater for retail and entertainment, although outside the Harper Court project, figures in the Harper Court plans, as creating an integration between the retail and residential (and hotel) Vermilion envisions along Harper Avenue and 53rd, which it is a major goal of Harper Court to reinvigorate.

In the third week of July 2010, the 53rd facade was being spruced up and prepared for art in the display windows for the July 25 Celebrate Hyde Park festival, and we understand thereafter some space for use by Hyde Park Alliance for Arts and Culture.

In December 2010 James Hennessy head of UC Real Estate, sent a letter to the Southside Preservation Action Fund confirming the University's serious intent to renovate and lease both the shops and the theater. Additional facade work was under way. Meanwhile ArtHereArtNow continued to use parts of the shops.

From the January 10 2011 TIF meeting

University: Theater building to be spared. By Sam Cholke

The University of Chicago announced Jan. 10 it will renovate the exterior of the historic facade of the Harper Theater and has identified a tenant for a portion of the retail spaces fronting East 53rd Street.

"I think the rest of the building once renovated wil show well," Susan Campbell, associate vice president for civic engagement at the university, said at a meeting of the 53rd street tax increment financing district advisory council. For the past week, crews removed art installation from the storefronts and began cleaning up the interior of the entire structure at the corner of East 53rd Street and South Harper Avenue. Renovation of the facade is expected to begin in two weeks.

The university purchased the 13,00 square foot theater, office and retail spaced in 2003. In 2006, it hired Baum Realty and Brinshore Redevelopment to rehab the building as an office building with retail and restaurants. The university and the the two firms had a falling out in 2008 and the building has sat vacant until last year when the retail spaces began being used for art installations.

The spaces were cleared of their second-run of installations last week in preparation for the clean up. The university ha hired OKW Architects to lead the renovation and HSA Commercial Real Estate to manage the property.

Campbell said a lease has been sent out to a tenant for the retail space, which would be identified next week. She said no tenant has been found for the theater space and the university is considering splitting up the interior for multiple tenants.

Harper Theater Structural Engineering survey and report said buildings sound, adaptable

March 30, 2010, the firm of Klein and Hoffman, hired by the University, began simple facade repairs on 53rd St. and evaluation of need for further facade work for the Herald and Theater buildings. It the latter is not too extensive and expensive, they will proceed to further work then remove the remaining scaffolding, which was generally considered an eyesore. In mid-June, the university was reviewing with the contractor "true costs" of full facade work.

Herald: April 7, 2010: Repair work begins on Harper Theater

The University of Chicago has begun much-anticipated repair to the Harper Theater building on the northwest corner of the intersection of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue. The goal of the work is to make facade repairs that will allow the university to safely remove the scaffolding that has been wrapped around the property according to University of Chicago Vice President of News and Public Affairs Steve Kloehn.

"The idea is to repair it so the scaffolding can come down," Kloehn said, adding that, in the initial days of work, the crew would assess the extent of repair that needed to be done.

Jay Ammerman, head of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, or HP-K CC, said the group was "very encouraged" to see the repair work underway. "I think it goes back to the work that the conference started last year with the structural assessment study, so we are very encouraged with the work that is proceeding to date," Ammerman said.

Then HP-K CC head George Rumsey commissioned a study last year by Stearn-Joglekar Ltd. amidst rumors that the university might deem the property beyond repair and demolish it. Constructed in 1915, the building was designed by architect Z. Erol Smith, whose work includes the South Shore sprawling residential Tower Court, 1801-25 E. 67th St., and the West Lawn State Bank, 3940 W. 63rd St., in the West Lawn community. Rumsey told the Herald recently that it was the erection of the scaffolding that started Hyde Parkers worrying.

Kloehn was unable to tell the Herald by press time what the assessment of the work crew was of the extent of work needed or a timeline for repairs.



Background on the study

SPAF (already a Committee of the Conference) joined in request to Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and Hyde Park Historical Society asking they send letters to the University of Chicago requesting access to structural studies done on the condition of the Harper Theater/Herald buildings and undertake and contribute a small amount in addition to the funding by SPAF of a new structural study based on those for the former selected developer. (All done June 2009). Stearn-Joglekar Ltd., the firm that did an earlier assessment for the former UC-appointed developer was commissioned and The University of Chicago, owner of the buildings, was notified. The structural study was done in summer-fall 2009 and the document and conclusions shared with the University as of December 2009. (The firm was not given access to the structure for this study and told SPAF that this was not essential.) The University asked for time to absorb, indicating that under consideration is commissioning historic tuck pointers for masonry repairs (reputable firms were forwarded and the University is said to have accepted or at least taken bids), after which the scaffolding, of serious concern in the community, would likely be removed. And meanwhile, the University continues to pursue tenants for both buildings and holds open historic adaptation.

While the committee meeting with University representatives- Jay Ammerman, HPKCC President; Ruth Knack, Hyde Park Historical Society President; George Rumsey, immediate past president of HPKCC; a member of a leading historic restoration and adaptive reuse firm Gunny-Harboe PC, and principals of Stearn-Joglekar Ltd.- offered the option of a joint announcement with the University, the resolution was that key persons from the SPAF and affiliated team met with the Hyde Park Herald and the University lead spokesman Steve [Kloehn] commented on the record to the Herald, not about the study but about intent of the University, confirming that it is indeed undertaking facade repairs (which need only to be minor), looking to removing the scaffolding, and making every effort to find tenants and keep the buildings.

A major finding of Stearn-Joglekar is that additional floors could be supported in the theater structure, reducing need for its demolition.

Hyde Park Herald, February 17, 2010. Harper Theater OK: HP-K CC study finds the historic site sound

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, or HP-K CC, made public last week a document that rates the Harper Theater and its adjoining commercial and retail space "in sound structural condition."

"Routine maintenance is required for the exterior walls including tuck pointing of masonry walls and inspections and on-going repair of terra cotta decorative elements," according to Stearn-Joglekar Ltd. heads Howard C. Stearn and Milind R. Joglekar. Stearn, a licensed architect, and Joglekar, who has a doctorate in civil engineering, concluded, based upon their study of the buildings, that "the existing structure can be effectively renovated and... the existing structure is capable of supporting additional interior floors..." This last finding refers to the Harper Theater in particular, which some thought might have to be gutted to be adapted for use by a new entity other than a theater operator. Instead, stearn and Joglekar demonstrate in their report a technique whereby additional interior floors might be constructed.

While releasing this report to the Herald last week, HP-K CC representatives said they had also shared the report with representatives from the University of Chicago, or U. of C., the buildings' owner. While U. of C. spokesman Steve [Kloehn] declined to comment on the study, HP-K CC President Jay Ammerman describe the conversations as "encouraging." None of the HP-K CC representatives would divulge the names of the U. of C. officials they spoke to on the record. [divulge for the record the names of...]

[Kloehn] confirmed the study's conclusion that the only safety considerations on the exterior of the building were superficial and said the U. of C. was was looking for a company to repair the facade so as to remove scaffolding that has been wrapped around the property for months -- a source of alarm for many Hyde Parkers. Former HP-K CC President George Rumsey said he originally commissioned the report because the scaffolding had sent rumors of "imminent demolition" rippling through the community.

[Kloehn] said, in addition to the repairs, the university wanted to bring new tenants to the property. "We're doing everything we can to find tenants for that building," he said.

2009-08 and overview

2008-09 - Back to square one after model RFP and near leasing toward facade preserving rehab, then University fires developer. University Fired in 2008 its developer and put up scaffolding (under serious reconsideration) and put the future of the buildings on hold, pending Harper Court decisions and directions (but has not combined the theater with Harper Court properties), promises "robust" community process. There has been confusion over the state of the buildings, being reevaluated (See Southside Preservation Action Fund page). Landmarks Illinois puts site on Watch List (see there a good, longer analysis). At the end of 2009, the University was studying options and talking to possible tenants or redevelopers.

A review was undertaken by the structural architect used in the Baum-Brinshore former proposal, commissioned through Southside Preservation Action Fund and co-sponsored by others. The review would query feasibility of adaptive reuses and is mandated to be shared first with the University.
The study was completed and submitted to and discussed with the University of Chicago in November 2009 and further discussion was held with the University. Hope is that the University will keep its options and explorations open and this year do the facade repairs and remove scaffolding. Hope is for a joint announcement with the University on these matters in the near future. Here is a summary by Jack Spicer, as reported to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and Hyde Park Historical Society boards in December.

On December 3 representative of the Hyde Park Historical Society, the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and the Southside Preservation Action Fund, as well as Howard Stearn from Stearn-Joglekar Engineers, met with Jim Hennessy, Director of Commercial Real Estate Opertions for the University of Chicago to present a structural engineering report on the Harper Theater Buildings. The report concluded that the Harper Theater buildings are currently structurally sound and have potential for adaptive reuse. Mr. Hennessy received the report with interest and grace.

Susan Campbell of the U of C gave an update at the September 8, 2008 TIF meeting. No new news from the University in November. Scaffolding went up for stabilization- no word on this from the University. Hyde Park Historical Society and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference request landmark status for the theater at the invitation session of the Landmarks Commission December 2, 2008.

December 4, 2008 Hyde Park Historical Society, backed by HPKCC, proposed landmark designation to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Program Committee.

Hyde Park Herald, December 10, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Local preservationist Jack Spicer suggested designating Harper Theater adn the Herald building at the northwest corner of Harper Avenues and 53rd street as a city landmark Thursday at a public hearing held by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks. The commission's Program Committee takes suggestions from the public twice a year and passes them on to the Department of Planning and Development, which decides whether or not to act on them.

Spicer's recommendation, made on behalf of the Hyde Park Historical Society, was the latest salvo by preservationists hoping to save the 1913 building, designed by architecture firm H.R. Wilson and Co. In September, Landmarks Illinois included the building on its seventh-annual Chicagoland Watch Lists, citing its architectural and community importance. The University of Chicago owns the building, which comprises two conjoined structures, a commercial building fronting 53drd Street and a theater facing Harper Avenue.

In May7, the university fired a developer that was working on an adaptive reuse of the building, saying the plan was not financially viable. Since then officials have said that they may bundle the property with the nearby Harper Court shopping, which is slated for redevelopment. They've also said the building is in rough shape -- so bad it may not last another winter. In recent weeks, it has been surrounded with scaffolding, a measure to protect pedestrians from falling debris, according to Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs.

"It's a very solid building and in very good condition," Spicer countered, in his remarks to the committee on Thursday. He also said that the university doesn't have a permit for the sidewalk scaffolding, but according to the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communication, which oversees sidewalk scaffolding, a valid permit is on file through Feb. 15.

Spicer also made a request in June to landmark the Doctors Hospital building at 5800 S. Stony Island Ave., which has not so far resulted in any action from the department.


In May 2008 the University made official that it has fired its developer for the Theater/Herald buildings--an almost complete facade restoration project, to consider including even restoration of the original marquee. Reason given for termination was that the developer did not meet numerous agreed upon deadlines and standards or deliver retail tenants. (Details were not given and persons with alleged inside information have given differing versions-- no satisfactory tenants were found/signed or the University felt the prospective tenants were not upscale enough.)

University spokespersons told meetings and media they will take time to consider course of action and that bundling with the Harper Court RFP is a possibility but not first choice. (see 2 paragraphs below.) (Problems would include non-contiguity--a requirement for city RFP planned developments) unless added was property east of Harper (viable transit-linked Starbucks ...Mellow Yellow ...Valois-- or north on Harper--purchase believed stymied on latter; also loss of time and change of Harper Area RFP, need for new appraisals et al. Pointed to in any case is demolition given stated condition of the building since a recommendation three years ago to demolish, a prospect disapproved by some parties for this property, part of which is Orange-rated. Decision on teardown and bundling may wait for proposals on Harper Court.

According to the Herald June 4, 2008, Rich Sciorino, CEO of Brinshore, said the University terminated because it was unhappy with the mix of proposed retail tenants. An expanded-service restaurant and a national fashion retailer had been obtained, but the fashion retailer pulled out. Search for replacement was in full swing. He cited current market conditions as a difficulty. Brinshore was within weeks of applying or permits and planned to start construction in July.

Whether the University would revisit or reuse the RFP process is uncertain. City spokesmen say the university wouldn't have to approach the city until applying for permits. The University (Susan Campbell) told the Herald it will come back to the community to discuss plans-- in the near future. Skip to continuation of May-June 2008 takes.

From the official minutes of the September 8, 2008 TIF meeting:
53rd and Harper U. of C. Property Update: Susan Campbell, U. of C., reported that the University is still waiting to find a developer for the property, given that its previous developer was terminated in June for its failure to meet contract specs. The property is in disrepair. According to Jo Reizner, VP of Real Estate for the University, the property is deteriorating and may have to be razed. it is possible that this property may become part of the Harper Court development. All public comments were incorporated into the RFQ for the Harper Court development.

Here is Herald report on possible bundling with Harper Court. September 17, 2008. By Kate Hawley.

A single developer may end up owning the Harper Court shopping center and a vacant building at the norwest corner of Harper Avenue and 53dr Street - a structure that houses both the defunct Harper Theater and a chunk of commercial space widely known in the neighborhood as the Herald Building.

The University of Chicago, which owns Harper Court and the Harper Theater building, might bundle them together in a package deal, according to Susan Campbell, associate vice president for community affairs. Officials are currently considering the future of the theater building, perhaps to "include it or hold it out as another element for Harper Court," she said Monday, Sept. 8, at a meeting of the 53rd Street Tax Increment Finance (TIF) advisory council at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave. "It's a consideration, not a decision," she added. "It hasn't been fully vetted."

The theater building has been in limbo since May, when the university fired Baum Realty and Brinshore Development. The developers planned to rehab the structure for retail space, but had trouble meeting financial commitments and contractual deadlines, university officials have said. Also in May, the university announced its purchase of Harper Court, the shopping center located among Harper avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets, and its plan to acquire the adjacent city-owned parking lot. The university will seek a developer for the Harper Court parcels through a Request for Proposals, or RFP, a competitive bidding process approve by the city. Campbell had no word yet on whether the RFP, which will likely be issued in the fall, will include the Harper Theater building.

And it's unclear at this stage what bundling the properties would mean for efforts to preserve the 1913 Harper Theater building, designed by noted Chicago architect Horatio Wilson. Its orange rating in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey means a 90-day hold on demolition. The building is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Campbell and Ilene "Jo" Reizner, director of real estate operations for the university and a member of the council, said the building may not be worth saving. Three years ago, before selecting Baum and Brinshore as developers, the university commissioned a study on the property from Bauer Latoza Studio, a Chicago firm specializing in architecture and historic preservation, Reizner told the roughly 50 people who attended the meeting. The study concluded that razing the site was the most feasible solution and that "the building was not something that anyone should put a significant amount of money into," she said.

Moreover, the complex is in bad shape, she added, saying, "It's barely able to withstand another winter, I'd say." Baum and Brinshore took on the project, "hoping to gain a foothold in the community. It wa not an economically viable project," she said.

In an email message, David Baum, principal of Baum Development and Baum Realty Group, reacted to Reizner's comments by saying, "Given the current economic conditions, we couldn't get the project to pencil." "Preserving a building is important from both an historical and environmental perspective," he continued. The job "would have required extensive renovation, particularly the theater [portion of the] building, and it would have proven to be an expensive endeavor." He held out the possibility that his firm would seek other projects in the neighborhood, saying, "I continue to believe very strongly in the fundamentals of Hyde Park. It's not a question of if, it's a question of when."

Reached by phone, Brinshore president and CEO Rich Sciortino declined to comment on Reizner's assessment of the projects' financial viability or the condition of the building.

Jack Spicer, a local preservation advocate, asked at the meeting how much effort the university plans to put into maintaining the building, "so we don't end up with demolition by neglect?" Measures will be taken to ensure that the structure remains sound, Campbell said, adding, "It's not in our interest or the community's interest to have the building fall apart." ...

Landmarks Illinois puts Harper site on "Watch List" - start of a fight or not? Herald October 1, 2008, by Kate Hawley

Landmarks Illinois has named the building on the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue to its seventh annual Chicagoland Watch List -- a sign that the University of Chicago, which owns the property, may face a fight if its seeks to raze the 1913 structure to make way for new development.

The Watch List, released last Thursday, names 13 historic properties around the Chicago region that the organization considers to be under a severe threat of demolition.

The 53rd and Harper building "has a nice scale, with intact storefronts open to the street," said Jim Peters, president and CEO of Landmarks Illinois. "Even though there's some deterioration, it still has the flavor of a building that feels like historic Hyde Park."

The nearly block-long parcel houses two conjoined structures, a commercial building fronting 53rd Street and a theater facing Harper Avenue. Both are currently vacant. Designed by architecture firm H. DR. Wilson and Co., the building is included in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District, part of the National Register of Historic Places. It's not a city landmark, but it is rated orange in the Chicago Historic Resources survey, which deems the property historically significant and places a 90-day hold on demolition.

As recently as last spring, th future of the building seemed secure. The University of Chicago, which bought the property in 29002, contacted in 2006 with Baum Realty and Brinshore Development to rehab it for retail and commercial space. The plan fell through in May. Baum and Brinshore could not meet contractual and financial commitments that would have allowed them to proceed with the project, university officials have said.

That angered some local preservationists, who supported the adaptive reuse. "Baum/Brinshore created a beautiful plan that would give new life to the building and new life to the community." University officials are now considering bundling 53rd and Harper with Harper Court, the shopping center located along Harper Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets, for sale to a single developer. Harper Court's low-slung, '60s era buildings will be knocked down to make way for a new development intended to spur growth along the 53rd Street corridor. Whether or not 53rd and Harper will also meet the wrecking ball depends on the proposals the university gets from developers, according to Robert Rosenberg, associated vice president for public affairs [and in the Office of Community Affairs].

"In terms of our preference about the property, it remains unchanged from a couple of years ago," he said. "We want what's best for the building." "We're not developers," he added. "We're not in th business of assessing what's the best and highest use for the property." He promised a "robust community process" with public meetings in the neighborhood as the university moves forward with its plans.

It will likely be several months before any decision is reached about bundling the Harper Theater building with Harper Court, he said. One factor in the university's decision could be a report commissioned by th university three years ago by BauerLatoza Studio, a Chicago firm specializing in preservation and evaluation of historic buildings. The report recommended demolishing 53rd and Harper to make way for a new building, according to Ilene "Jo" Reizner, assistant vice president of real estate operations for the university. Rosenberg said the university considers the report an internal document and would not release it to the Herald.

At recent meeting of the 53rd street Tax-Increment Financing advisory council, Reizner also described the building as in very bad shape, so bad it might not last another winter. For [Jack] Spicer, that sounded like a death knell for 53rd and Harper. "Tearing down historic buildings is not a sustainable development plan -- we should have learned that from Urban Renewal," his email continued. "Demolishing the Harper Theater is bad planning, bad community relations, and worst of all, it's a bad business decision."

Other properties on this year's Watch List include a one-room schoolhouse in Orland Township, a car wash along historic Route 66 and three modernist buildings designed by noted architect Bertram Goldberg.

Letter says it's a matter of taste. Herald, Oct. 1, 2008

In answer to James R. Ford's statement that he "can't imagine why anybody would want to preserve the Harper Theater building ," which he says is "surely one of the ugliest buildings in Hyde Park of any age" (Sept. 24 Herald): ...a lot of us love that building for its intricacy, subtle contrasts and generally medieval added-on-to appearance, and that love is ancient and visceral. I especially like the little white lozenges of tile on the corner portion, and, above all, the weird way that the high wall of the theater portion proper, which is kind of forbidding and fortress-like, soars above the deep cobalt blue tile with the gold 1930s Deco fashionista goddess centerpiece. 53rd Street west of the viaduct has so much revolting pseudo-modern junk on it...but the theater building and some of the old terra cotta gets me through the experience. Suzanne Erfurth


Preservation Illinois also put the buildings on its endangered list

Hyde Park Herald, January 28, 2009. By Kate Hawley [A similar article appeared in the January 26, 2009 Chicago Tribune.]

Preservation Chicago announced its annual list of the seven most endangered historic places in the city Monday, a roundup that includes the Herald building and the Harper Theater at the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue in Hyde Park.

The announcement marked the second time in recent months that a preservation advocacy group has made a pitch to same the 1913 building (actually a pair of conjoined structures: a commercial building fronting 53rd Street and a theater facing Harper Avenue.) In September, Landmarks Illinois named the building to its seventh-annual Chicagoland Watch List, along with 13 other historic sites around the region.

A statement from Preservation Chicago argues for the architectural and cultural significance of the property, calling it "one of the last scraps of the neighborhood's once extensive commercial district" demolished in large part during Urban Renewal in the 1950s.

Horatio Wilson, a prolific architect in the city during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, designed the building in the "prairie school/arts and crafts" style, according to the statement. The University of Chicago, which has owned the property since 2002, in May fired Baum Realty and Brinshore Development, the development team that was working on an adaptive reuse of the structure.

Preservation Chicago is arguing for a return to that plan, which university officials have said was not financially viable. University officials have also held out the possibility of bundling the property with an adjacent site slated for redevelopment: a city-owned parking lot and the Harper Court shopping center, which the university purchased in May fro $6.5 million.

Over the last several months, they've made the case that the Harper Theater and Herald Building is rapidly deteriorating, citing a report commissioned by the university from BauerLatoza Studio, a firm that specializes in evaluating historic buildings.

Preservation Chicago's statement counters that, "The structure as a whole remains extremely solid and stable. The storefronts and offices of the commercial building are mostly original and in good condition."

The building is currently surrounded by scaffolding. Robert Rosenberg, associate vice president for public affairs at the university, has said it it meant to protect pedestrians from falling debris.

But on Monday, Rosenberg sounded a more hopeful note about the building's future " One of the great things about downturn is that it's very good for preservationists," he said, adding that many of the university's development projects are likely to move more slowly given the economic conditions. "We would like to save that theater," he continued. "It's not that we're not mindful mindful of these things, but it's just so much more difficult in the current development climate. We continue to be open to good ideas and new ideas, and people who want to invest."

Reviving the movie theater that once occupied the space, an idea that was under serious discussion a few years ago, is still on the table, he said. "We've been talking about it for a very long time, and we continue to talk." "If Magic Johnson cinema came in tomorrow ... we would do that in a second," he said, referring to Magic Johnson Theatres, an enterprise run by Johnson Development Corp., headed by the former basketball star. The university would welcome other investors, too, he said. He declined to discuss any negotiations. "The last the want is to be hanging onto vacant property," Rosenberg said. "We want development, we want entertainment. We want these things to be there for the community."

The theater portion of the building is rated orange in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey, which puts a 90-day hold on demolition. The Hyde Park Historical Society lodged a formal request in December with the Commission on Chicago Landmarks to make the entire property a protected city landmark.

The building falls within the boundaries of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District, part of the National Register of Historic Places, but the designation does not prevent alteration or demolition...


More takes, May-June 2008:

Herald article, May 21, 2008: University of Chicago fires Harper Theater developers. By Sam Cholke

The University of Chicago confirmed Friday that Brinshore Development and Baum Realty have been terminated is the developers for Harper Theater. Susan Campbell, associate vice president for Community Affairs, said the university made commitments to the community about the project at 53rd sTreet Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District Advisory Council meetings that the developers were having difficulty honoring.

The University is still committed to creating a mixed-use retail space at the site, but are going to go back at this pont an look at all of the options, Campbell said.

When asked if the Harper Theater property would be packaged with the recently acquired Harper Court and adjoining city lot properties, Campbell said it was"one possibility, but not a leading option." "We have been disappointed that the development team hasn't met with deadlines and specifications they have ascribed to," Campbell said May 12 at the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council meeting.

The university will go back to the community soon to outline where things stand with the Harper Theater property and what options are available moving forward, Campbell said.

A representative from Brinshore Development and Baum Realty was not available to comment as of press time.

Maroon's take May 30 2008 (full article was by Adrian Florido)

The University spokespersons insist there is no connection between the firing of Baum and Brinshore and purchase of Harper Court and they are reassessing the situation of the theater. . University spokespersons also say the reason for dismissal was failure to perform (satisfy certain agreements, specifically "deadlines and specifications they have ascribed to," according to Susan Campbell, and especially inability to recruit tenants and acquire funds for the project, according to Robert Rosenberg, adding that the University was generous with the developers. (Others insist that Baum and Brinshore did bring tenants, but the University did not find them acceptable--according to the article the developers said there was no sense in burning bridges with the University. The firms have much experience attracting retailers to Chicago and especially to Wicker Park/Bucktown, the writer notes.

The article continues, "The inability of the development firms to attract tenants willing to set up shop in Hyde Park has brought to the surface some of the difficulties that have plagued retail development efforts in the neighborhood for decades. Upscale retailers and national chains have been reluctant to risk investment in Hyde Park because of the constraints of its consumer base, its relative commercial isolation on the South Side, and the limited expendable income of its... student population. The University's purchase of Harper Court last month came after successive failures of the property's owners to attract purchasers and developers for the site despite added incentive that included an adjacent parking lot.



Views are varied. Jack Spicer, following the standing position of the Hyde Park Historical Society, of which he is preservation committee chair, asked people in September 2008 to vote in a Tribune poll for preservation of the Theater buildings. James R. Ford wrote in the Tribune, tear them down. Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference has in the past asked the University to look at means to preserve and rehab.

In November 2008, the Hyde Park Historical Society Board approved proposing to Landmarks Illinois at the December 4 meeting of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that Harper Theater (and the Herald building?) be recommended for landmark status.

HPHS description of its recommendation:
Harper Theater building / 5234-44 Harper (Rosalie) Avenue and 1552-64 53rd Street -- a 1013 retail/office/theater commercial development designed by Horatio Wilson. One of three remaining historic buildings at this intersection, the Harper Theater originally hosted live performances. Recently slated to be completely preserved and restored, the project has been terminated by its owner, the University of Chicago, an now is threatened with demolition. In September the building was place on the Landmarks Illinois "2008 Chicagoland Watch List" of the most endangered historic buildings in the Chicago area. (http://www.landmarks.org/2008_3.htm).

Listed on the CCL form: ....Permitted 10/8/13, completed 10/28/14. Contractor Martins and Sons, Architect Horatio R. Wilson. Terra cotta-Midland T/C Co. Included in Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District/ National Register, Listed on Landmark Illinois 208 Chicagoland "Watch List."
Important Chicago architect. Noteworthy use of terra cotta by Midland T/C Co. Significant mixed-use corner of commercial building.

Description by the HPHS Preservation committee
... The Harper Theater buildings are included in the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. the buildings were also identified as having "community significance" (OR-rated) in eh Chicago Historic Resources Survey. They were placed on Landmark Illinois' 2008 "Chicagoland Watch List."

This is a mixed-use corner commercial development with retail storefronts on the first floor and office spaces on the south-facing 543rd Street wing, and a 3-story theater building facing east on Harper Avenue. The style is "prairie school/arts and crafts" with high-quality brick work and white terra cotta trim by Midland Terra Cotta Company. The storefronts and offices of the commercial building are mostly original and in good condition. The theater portion was built as a 1,200-seat vaudeville house and was converted to a movie theater in 1935. Its original and very small entrance was on 53rd Street with an elaborate terra cotta exit on Harper Avenue. As part of the 1030s conversion to a movie house and due to new fire regulations, the original entrance on 53rd Street was converted to a small barber shop and the original exit on Harper was remodeled as a large open entrance with ticket window and lobby. The elaborate Midland terra cotta work of the original exit was replaced by blue and gold Art Deco terra cotta panels by Northwest Terra Cotta Company. The original Midland shop drawings are available for use in any restoration effort.

The commercial and theater buildings have been owned by the University of Chicago since 2002. In 2006, the U of C contracted Baum Realty and Brinshore Development to redevelop the site. Rather than demolishing the buildings, Baum and Brinshore created a preservation plan that would have adaptively reused the Harper Theater buildings as a mixed-use retail/restaurant/office complex taking advantage of historic tax credits. However, the U of C terminated the project. The commercial and theater buildings now stand vacant. U of C owns adjoining properties which could result in a large-scale demolition to create a single redevelopment site located in the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Representatives of the University recently stated publicly that "the Harper Theater buildings probably wouldn't make it through the winter."

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference endorsed the same. Here is HPKCC President George Rumsey's endorsement letter:

Mr. Brian Goeken
Deputy Commissioner
Commission on Chicago Landmarks
33 N. LaSalle St., Rm 1600
Chicago, IL 60602

Dear Mr. Goeken:

It has come to my attention that the Hyde Park Historical Society will be proposing, at the Commission's Decedmber 4th Program Committee meeting, that the Harper Theater be landmarked. I strongly support such action, as quickly as possible.

The Harper Theater building is an important asset to our community, both visually and historically. Too much of the architectural history of the this neighborhood has already been lost, so the remaining pieces are particularly important for us to preserve. The Theater building is a wonderful example of vibrant inner-city urban architecture--many neighborhoods throughout Chicago grew up "around" their theaters, and the continued loss of these buildings throughout the city leaves a major emptiness.

It is essential, if we are to maintain the integrity fo Hyde Park as a neighborhood, that we preserve at least some pieces of our past. For twenty years, I have walked past the theater building every day on my way to work, with its wonderful adjoining red-brick storefronts putting a friendly open face onto 53rd Street. The loss of those buildings could never be replaced, and Hyde Park would no longer be the neighborhood I have lived in and cherished for 30 years. Those buildings are that important to the identity of this community.

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

CC: Terry Tatum, Director of Research, Commission on Chicago Landmarks, 33 N. LaSalle St., Rm 1600, Chicago, IL 60602





The following is now out of date, but represents the zenith of a model RFP process. The rendering above has been superseded (Nov 2007, per presentation at TIF meeting) by decision to keep the present walls and theater facade and not use awnings. There will be new floors and look to the old theater entry and this remains an adaptive renovation rather than either new construction or historic restoration. The corner will a dining facility most likely. The exact nature of use of the other space is unclear, but likely high end apparel. Most of the interior and 2nd story would be offices and a top-flight restaurant. It was expected to go to permit at the end of 2007 and start construction spring 2008, which will not now happen. Due to costs and potential for historic incentives, under consideration was complete restoration of the theater facade also.

(Susan Campbell at the May 12, 2008 TIF meeting reported that the project is in abeyance due to problems with finding retail tenants and the developer not meeting other benchmarks timely. The University is taking time to assess the situation, she said.

The University has revoked its agreement with Baum and Brinshore, said to be for alleged failure to meet performance deadlines written into the agreement.)

From official minutes

Harper and 53rd Street (Theater Building): Susan Campbell, of UC, began discussion with remarks and history for the 53rd street Theater building redevelopment. She introduced David Brint and Rich Sciortino, of Brinshore Development, who made a formal presentation of the project's progress. In their presentation, they proposed renovation of the property due to the expense of demolition (over $1M), restated development objectives and reviewed historic preservation plans. They revealed that they were 60-90 days from revealing their tentative retail tenant mix and design concept. In commenting on construction they stated that the roof will be raised, but the building exterior will be largely maintained. Just fewer than 40k sq. ft. of retail space will be created in the renovated structure. Construction is projected to begin in Spring, 2008, with occupancy expected in Spring, 2009.

By Gary Ossewaarde

Brinshore and Susan Campbell of the University presented on its design work and retail contacts for the 53rd/Harper Theater project. The building shell will remain, with new floors and new treatment of the first floor retail and theater entrance. Practically this is preservation, although in category and standards adaptive renovation. The corner space will almost certainly be dining. They hope the west part of the 53rd first floor front and theater will be upscale apparel and related shops--many have shown interest. The upper floor of both buildings will be offices (53rd is already committed to a therapy group). Developers expect to submit for permits and closings at the end of the year and for construction to start late winter or early spring. They were asked to put up signs showing this is the site of new development instead of everyone seeing just "closed" signs. Response was favorable, with reservations about the success of high end shops.

Jack Spicer comment December 2007

The University's handling of the Harper Theater Building project was close to perfect. With thorough community input they created an excellent Request For Proposal and threw it into the free market ring for developers to wrestle with. Then they sold the property to the winner. The winning proposal is outstanding on every dimension, all the better for the competition and the lack of backroom interference.


Report on the November 15 2006 TIF meeting-- decision on Harper Theatre. By Gary Ossewaarde
Another version

The "winner" was announced at the November 13 TIF meeting. Hank Webber, UC Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, and selected Brinshore Developers and Baum Brothers LLC will be recommended to the University Board of Trustees. Design and permits will take about 6 months, after which the theater section will be demolished and its site redeveloped as an extension with rehabilitation and partial restoration of the 53rd storefronts. Webber will return to report on progress in March or May and the final plan will be presented at a summer TIF meeting before going out to bid. Webber also said they will help existing tenants (which appear quite valuable and one of which is historic) to find new space--Hyde Park Barber Shop as historically and culturally significant is owed a special obligation, Webber said, and is already enthusiastic about new space identified by the University. However, there is not a place likely for existing businesses in the new development and concern that they may not find any affordable space in Hyde Park (compounded by city business restrictions). At request of TIF Chair Howard Males, the developer will work with the TIF Planning and Development Committee before presenting a final plan in the summer. (This committee's meetings are open and chaired by Chuck Thurow.)

(Previous expectation:) The retail "Herald" building along 53rd will be retained and upgraded for a (ground floor 15,000 square feet) mix of local and national higher end fashion and apparel retailers. The line and style of the restored Herald building will be extended along Harper the length of the to-be-demolished theater, the line interrupted and book ended by towers that will recreate many of the features and brickwork and trim of the theater and use existing materials to the extent possible. The retail will be deepened through the former theater, and the north end will likely have one or more upscale restaurants. The second (and possibly a third story) will be office and possibly some creative-use space. In no case will the height exceed that of the old theater.

HPKCC's position in resolutions and formal letters of comment on the Harper Theater complex were largely followed in the RFP process and outcome- keeping the 53rd storefronts and as much or close to the theater facade as possible, low and pedestrian friendly scale, destination high quality retail, high quality of construction, and a serious effort to keep a theater. We commend the University, developers, and Chicago Consultants Studio.

The 15,000 square feet limit the kinds of retail that are possible ( furniture or Gap-sized stores requirement starts at 20,000 sq. ft.). One Hyde Parker who has a fashion store in Bucktown has already signed on. The developer and University are confident this can work and spur redevelopment, even with no parking provided. (The development's parking requirement is met by the expected tax increment the development will bring to the TIF district, which is expected to use increment to back a garage.)

Rejected bids included a hotel (said by Webber to be dubious at that location and in conflict with plans for such a complex elsewhere), a health spa, artists' lofts, various mixed use and residential, and condos or rental housing, and the Music Box Theater bid despite strong community backing. (Webber said that bid would have required a subsidy from both the University and the TIF for an $8 million rehabilitation: given the University's mission is teaching-research-patient care, that the University wanted to realize a return and had set a priority for 53rd to start by filling in retail types we don't have and spur lagging retail values and venues, loss from the theater bid vs. the return from the Brinshore/Baum bid could not be ignored (even though the University was not receiving as much as it had hoped). And there were grave doubts about the success of a cinema.) Webber said that the selected project is "a big, positive step in the right direction- but other steps will have to be taken."

Each of the University's criteria were superbly met by the bidder, Webber said:

· High quality and experience of the developer (which has done extensive redevelopment in many parts of the city including all around Hyde Park, brokered one in four retail deals in the Loop, and rebirth of Bucktown Milwaukee Ave. retail.)

· Experience with historic preservation and adaptive reuse (which this firm specializes in and has won Driehaus awards) with preference for keeping the 53rd facade

· Proven ability and commitment to fund and complete the job in a short timeframe

· A plan and strategy that will result in a high quality redevelopment, upscale, and in accord with the University and community preferences and expectations for what's to be there. These priorities were: Fashion and apparel, and fine dining (although some want a 24 hour or a bistro)

· Historic preservation and adaptive reuse

· Destination shopping that would stimulate development and generate street traffic including at night

· Green and sustainable design (has LEEDs architect on staff)

· Minority and women business participation commitment and track record

· Ability to provide a return to the University

· Willingness to work with the community.

David Brinshore stressed the commitment to preservation and reuse, green, minority and women participation, and a mix of nationals and local retailers. Anchor will be Ms. Catwalk, owned by Hyde Parker Michon Stuttley, who asked why Hyde Parkers should have to drive to Bucktown to shop for her goods.

· Liquor license--have talked with city, it is possible, although the development doesn’t depend on it.
· There would be 3-4 shops on the 53rd side.
· A new utility corridor will be created off Harper.
· The building north of the theater is not involved in the project.
· Space has been identified for the barbershop, which is owed special help beyond that pledged to all the current tenants.
· The University rejected hooking up with Harper Court development to get
something unique and appropriate to the theater/Herald building going quickly.

Several expressed thanks to the University and the developers for their responsible reuse of the building, historic and green considerations, listening to community input on scale, context, pedestrian friendliness and retail needs, and for engaging with the community.
There was an appeal to be very careful given the number of historic structures that have burned down during renovation in recent years.

Pamela Haley, leader of the group to preserve the theater as a Music Box cinema expressed disappointment and said the University did not pursue the bid in good faith or listen to the community. Webber said that there will be more opportunities and places for cinema, including the Music Box to come in, as is true of all the other possible uses proposed for the theater building.


Conference Reporter 2006 Issue 4 report.

by Gary Ossewaarde

Theater, 53rd classic storefronts morph into bold retail plan [plus other business of the November 13 2006 TIF meeting]

In a bold risk, the University of Chicago announced at the November 13 2006 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Advisory Council meeting that it has turned on its head redevelopment of the Theater and former Herald buildings. While many assumed the 53rd side was doomed as developers would seek elbow room for a new development, or else focused on keeping the theater or at least its façade, it is the 53rd St. shops façade, not that of the theater, that will be preserved in adaptive reuse and extended into the heart of the former theater and down the Harper side of the site, with tower and decorative element semi-replication of the theater façade. The risk is that the upscale apparel, etc. stores may not be persuaded come or be supported by the community and destination shoppers.

Keeping the 53rd shop building was, however, a solution urged by many preservationists, persons concerned with keeping the scale and pedestrian-friendly character of 53rd Street, and those who want to jump start rehabilitation of 53rd Street and a lagging retail sector by seeking the kinds of stores that are missing from the community—hopefully bringing back fleeing and attracting new customers. All of these desires are in accord with what the Conference found in several community forums, including that on the Future of Hyde Park, in 2005, and which the Conference included in its comments to the university on the draft Request for Proposals for the complex.

The Conference—and about 2,000 Hyde Parkers who signed petitions—also asked the University to look harder at accommodating a theater reuse (movie and/or live). Hank Webber, University Vice President of Community and Government Affairs, told the November 13 audience at the Neighborhood Club that a theater use could not be found. The single theater bidder that remained, the Music Box, wanted about $8 million in subsidies from the University and the TIF, which the University could not afford in light of its core mission, an alternative proposal by highly experienced and sensitive reuse developers that in the University’s view was superior and satisfied broadest goals and more likely to succeed, and because a theater use would require immediate additional parking. (Actually, the accepted proposal’s sole contribution to parking will be its tax increment toward TIF-backed new parking years down the road.) Among bids not selected were a health spa, a conference hotel, artists’ lofts, residential, and mixed use.

Specifics of the proposal, presented by David Brinshore and David Baum of the selected development team, will involve an attempt to bring four or more destination apparel and other boutique shops (one of which was identified)—a mix of locally owned and chains, and on Harper and the rear likely an upscale restaurant on the ground level and office space and maybe conference space on the second and a possible third story. (A liquor license was called attainable.) Green and sustainable features will be incorporated. Webber called the proposal “a big, positive step in the right direction” toward creating a heart for Hyde Park retail—but that additional steps are highly necessary.

Most attending apparently agreed, as shown in generally favorable comments and detailed questions. Several praised the opportunities for public input into the site’s future as a good example for others to follow—a good process leading to a good result, and the university’s willingness to heed voices of the community in most regards.

[Not published: More troubling concerns, only alluded to at the meeting, are whether such developments in general drive smaller local businesses out of the community. Contributing to such problems are high rents, governmental zoning and other business restrictions, and unwanted consequences of agendas to bring needed types or retail--including upscale and deep-pockets chain businesses--into the community. Some think our largest landlord, the University in various ways also contributes to the downside as well as the upside of business district change.]

Webber will return regularly with updates and by early summer 2007 present plans to the TIF Planning and Development Committee for careful review, then a public TIF meeting before new construction starts, maybe in fall 2007.

[Published instead as part of the article: other TIF meeting business:] In other business, Bank of America showed accommodation to public concerns about its signage and layout (friendlier to persons of all abilities) at its new branch at 1439 E 53rd Street. Jane Comiskey, co-chair of the Environment Committee, reported on follow up to a walk-through along 53rd Street. Alderman Preckwinkle reported and answered questions. She said the city is completing appraisal of Harper Court and will prepare an RFP draft to be brought before the TIF. It is a planned development not needing zoning changes, she said.


Herald coverage, November 15 2006

Exit theater, enter fashion: U. of C., Baum Brothers plan to demolish theater, bring retail/office mix to 53rd Street. By Nikeya Woods

The Harper Theater building, 5238 S. Harper ave., will likely be demolished by the fall of 2007, the University of Chicago's Hank Webber told the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing Advisory Council Nov. 13.

Webber is recommending to the U. of C. Board of Trustees that Brinshore Developers and Baum Brothers LLC rehab the 1453-56 [sic] E. 53rd ST. building for retail and office uses and replace the 91-year-old theater with additional retail and office space. Current tenants on the property are being asked to move* elsewhere. [*Webber said "helped."]

Representatives of Brinshore and Baum said they want to transform Hyde Park into a retail destination and increase foot traffic along 53d Street. Their plan is to invite high-end fashion retailers and possibly an upscale restaurant to the site.

"The vision that we presented the last few years is that this area is the heart of Hyde Park retail an entertainment activity," said webber, the university's vice president of Community and Government Affairs. "This is a big, positive step in the right direction."

Developer David Brinshore said four to five retailers will fill a combined 15,000 square feet of space on the first floor. The second floor is set aside for office space. Brinshore proposed adding a third floor to the new building on the theater's site. Baum Brothers LLC, which specializes in retail and historic preservation, works with national clients like Starbucks, Urban Outfitters and Jimmy Johns. They have worked with local boutiques like Ms. Catwalk [in Bucktown], owned by Hyde Parker Michon Stuttley. the firm wants to bring a combination of local businesses and national chains t the project and prides itself on partnering with minority and women-owned businesses.

"I firmly believe that this can work here," said David L. Baum, Baum Brothers LLC founder. "The area is underrepresented by these types of tenants and there is an unmet demand." Types of restaurants have yet to be determined. developers have heard that residents are looking for something that could be open open 24 hour a day or a bistro. "We're looking for restaurants that are a little bit more upscale that what is existing now," said Baum. He said obtaining a liquor license is no out of the question.

The university purchased the theater building and its attachments, 5240 S. Harper Ave. and 1453-77 E. 53rd St., for $2.275 million in 2002. Since, Webber contacted 40 live-action and movie theaters, to no avail. He said the economics, building size and lack of parking were reasons why a theater could not reopen there.

In the spring the university received one last proposal from the Music Box Theatre looking to restore both the theater and adjacent building that several residents had expressed enthusiasm about.

Other proposals included a hotel, health club, retail/condo mixed use, rental apartment and artists' lofts. Webber said he will return to the TIF council in six months with an update of the project.

"This is an example that a good process gets good result," said Jack Spicer, a Hyde Park resident."


Herald asks, Will they stay or will they go? U. of C. plan for Harper Theater and 53rd building doesn't include tenants who are there now. [Concerns that UC biases matters against small, home-grown non-upscale business and doesn't do much for displaced.]

Herald, November 22, 2006. By Nykeya Woods

After the University of Chicago announced its recommended developer for the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper avenue last week, current tenants have expressed mixed emotions.

The University is recommending that Brinshore Developers and Baum Brothers LLC rehab the53rd St. building for retail and office uses and replace the 91-year-old theater with additional retail and office space. Current tenants on the property are being asked to move elsewhere.

Abdul Kareem, owner of Hyde Park Hair Salon and Barber Shop*, said he decided to look at this as an opportunity for his 400-square-foot shop to increase in size. "I don't like that we have to move, but change is inevitable, Kareem said. "The direction that the neighborhood is going through, I think that this development here is probably a necessary procedure."

[In addition to being by far the longest surviving tenant of the complex and third oldest in the neighborhood 1926--80 years, Hyde Park Barber Shop was the first to start serving and catering to African Americans when they moved in during the 1950s and has many historic connections to, for example, the jazz and blues world, sometimes hosting live performance. Barack Obama has his hair cut there.]

Since 1926, a barbershop has been at 1464 E. 53rd st. Kareem took over as owner in 2002 and has seen 75 to 100 people come into the shop on the weekends.

Despite the change, Kareem says he wants to stay in the neighborhood but has encountered a city zoning ordinance barrier. The zoning ordinance requires new shops to be 1,000 fee from any existing hair salon, barbershop or nail salon, which makes staying in Hyde Park difficult. He would also be required to purchase a special usage permit. He recently began looking in Bronzeville.

Sister Rose Garrett, owner of Kilimanjaro International art and Design, has been looking at vacant storefronts in Bronzeville, but for a different reason. "I don't know where we are going to go because the rent is too high [in Hyde Park]," Garrett said. "I guess they don't want us here." Garrett also said that the university is overlooking the fact that she is an artist with a small store and cannot generate a lot of money for high rent.

For Shelby Li has operated his computer repair store at 1466 E. 53rrd St. The U.S. Computech owner said he has been looking along 53rd Street for vacant storefronts to ensure keep[s] his clientele. Li said the university is no longer looking out for small businesses and the community should be outrage that businesses are being pushed out. "It's not fair," Li said.

Michael Timble is saddened at the thought of moving his store, Propaganda T-shirt Printing, out of the neighborhood. With two others, one in Wicker Park and one in Lakeview, Timple said his main concern is to try to stay in the area. "I am sad that we have to leave the spot," Timple said. "And I am concerned that it will be hard to find comparable spaces in the neighborhood.

Timble, whose store has been at 1426 E. 53rd St. for three years, said that he believes the university is interested in small business. But "when you see businesses like Starbucks and others move in, you can kind of see the writing's on the wall," he said.

"The university will work with the tenants to identify options for relocation," Hank Webber, the university's vice president of Community and Government Affairs, told the Herald. ...Tenants will be required to move by June of 2007.


Herald says Nov. 25, A good process gets a good result--except for historic tenants

After almost five years of staring at the enormous hole in [the] heart of Hyde Park's business and entertainment district, the Herald was pleased last week to report that Brinshore Developers and Baum Brothers LLC has taken on the task of redeveloping the northwest corner of 53rd Street and Harper Avenue.

Brinshore and Baum plan to rehabilitate the 1453-56 [sic] E. 53rd St. building while the vacant Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave., is slated to be demolished by fall of 2007 and replaced with a two-story building, with possibly a third story added sometime in the future. Renderings show that the new building will resemble the one being rehabbed. A three-story tower designed in the terra cotta style that Horatio Wilson used to build the theater and 53rd street building in 1913 will connect the two buildings.

Developers say they will lure both locally-owned and national chain stores to fill approximately 15,000 square feet on the first floor. The second floor is set aside for office space. There are hopes of attracting a bistro-syle restaurant to the site. Morton's steakhouse, which started in Hyde Park, is one of the Baum's' clients, but Baum has made no official plans to bring Morton's back to the neighborhood.

The announcement was made at the recent 53rd STreet Tax Increment Financing Advisory council meeting at the Neighborhood Club. University of Chicago's Hank Webber told the council that this is a positive step in the right direction. He's right.

The University of Chicago has owned the property since 2002 and has been criticize for sitting on a vacant, four-screen cinema during this time without definitive plans to rehab or rebuild. But this was a process that needed time, not premature decisions. When a year ago webber said he had contacted 40 movie theater operators about reopening the Harper, the Herald praised the university for giving the search a good try, a good college try. So the Music Box Theatre may have submitted a nice idea after the fact, but, indeed, it was after the fact.

Meanwhile, the university sent out a request for proposals, found respected developers in Brinshore and Baum, and kept the community informed and even solicited community input each step of the way. If only every major development project in Hyde Park could be handled this way. So the Herald agreed when one resident at the meeting said, "This is an example that a good process gets a good result."

So they don't reopen the theater. The economics and the current parking situation in the neighborhood worked against that . It doesn't mean Hyde Park will never have a theater. Webber said the city-owned parking lot at 53rd and Lake Park Avenue could be ripe for a theater on day, referring to models in downtown Chicago and Evanston that have movie theaters above first-floor retail and are near city transit stations.

What was so important about the intersection of 53rd and Harper was preserving the classic, main street ambiance of at least three of the four corners, notably Wilson's architecture. Brinshore and Baum may revitalize the area with this project, but they are also keeping a portal to an old fashioned downtown in Hyde Park.

And Baum Brothers is right for this project. The City of Chicago honored Baum Brothers with a 2004 Chicago Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence for its work on the Mar mon Building, 2232 S. M Michigan ave., in the Motor Row District. The Spanish Revival-style building was constructed in 1922 and designed by architect Alfred Bascule.

But the Herald cannot totally endorse the project unless some commitment is made by the university to invite the current tenants of the 1435-56 E. 53rd st. building to negotiate their lease agreements and remain in the building if they wish. The Hyde Park Hair Salon and Barbershop has been there for 80 years, occupying the space that used to be the 53d street lobby in the theater. It is the third oldest business in Hyde Park.

Developers prided themselves on partnering with locally-owned businesses in other neighborhoods, like Ms. Catwalk in Bucktown, which is owned by Hyde Parker Michon Stuttley. But they made no commitment to keeping the barbershop or the other tenants in the 53rd street building. They only committed to offering tenants some sort of undefined assistance to move elsewhere, possibly out of the neighborhood. It would be unfortunate if the barbershop, for one, had to leave Hyde Park. Where would U.S. Sen. Barack Obama get his hair cut?



Pamela Haley, Andrew Mine say University is not a benevolent neighbor in this "company town"--didn't collaborate with, listen to majority in community or negotiate with Music Box Theater.

Suzanne Truth wrote in the December 6 2006 Herald that the theater facade, including the blue and gold and high wall, should stay.


Further overview:

The University reviewed what Susan Campbell, U of C As st. VP Comm. Affairs, told the Herald were 7 (turned out to be 10, then 9 when one dropped out) well-thought out, interesting proposals received by deadline March 24 2006. However, as confirmed by Hank Webber at a meeting congruent to the spring conclave of the Board of Trustees, The University considered whether to associate with the joint Harper Court and City Lot RFP process and rejected it The University also considered a late entrant, the owner of the Music Box Theater (see Music Box below). The others do not include a theater and range from 53rd Street facade restoration to complete reconstruction. All included retail or active uses on the ground floor. Some went as high as 14 stories, the height of the Bank. The Music Box proposal included keeping the 53rd businesses as well as the exterior and basic interior of the theater.

For background, context and viewpoints, letters et al visit our Harper Theater page and its links.

At the January 9, 2006 53rd Street TIF (tax increment finance district) Advisory Council meeting, Henry S. Webber, University of Chicago Vice President for Community and Government Affairs, presented background and draft guidelines for redevelopment of the Harper Theater/Herald building on the west side of Harper Avenue and 53rd Street. The University owned the properties for the past three years and concludes that a developer cannot be found to preserve and reopen a live or cinema theater under reasonable conditions and that it will put out a request for proposals for a mixed-use development in line with the character and standards of the community and the University. Proposals may be for lease or purchase--although the University clearly prefers sale and Webber has clearly said the University has no wish to be a retail landlord on 53rd Street.

On the RFP process and formal input

We are presenting here text (without photos and maps) of the public principles and guidelines, not the full RFP boiler plate and all. The final document has been released by the consulting firm (Chicago Consultants Studio) and made available upon reasonable request for CD-Rom and or hard copy. Print off of Guidelines distributed at the TIF meeting is here, below. We have the full pdf version- hard copy, CD-ROM and in downloaded pdf on our office computer where the text comes up fast, but it is over 2.5 mb (39 pages text plus graphics) so not in the website. The South East Commission Website, hydeparksecc.com has approximately the same version as below.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference sent comments praising the diligence of the University and suggesting 1) a stronger requirement for facade preservation (at least) and 2) public viewing and comment on the top contenders. We received no favorable remarks on these in acknowledgements of receipt but do believed there will be serious public meetings as well as consideration by the 53rd Street TIF Planning and Development Committee, chaired by Chuck Thurow. We encourage all community residents and businesses to send in comments even though the formal period is over and at least 10 serious proposals have been received by the owner. We welcome being cc 'd at hpkcc@aol.com.

January 31 2006 the 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council Planning and Development Committee, Chair Chuck Thurow, met to discuss and receive comments on the RFP. Formal letters were received from the Hyde Park Historical Society and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (see below).

The Committee went through the Guidelines and then considered likely outcomes. Noted was that most developers will want to have a major residential component as well as retail, so will likely want to go higher than the current zoning limits, using a planned development. Currently restricted to about 50' or 5 stories and about 19 residential units with restrictions on dimensions, the developer will likely want to go to more stories--but not over 80' after which heavy fire restrictions kick in.

Further any project, its parking, and willingness to consider even facade preservation will be extremely tight unless the development both goes higher and the second half of the one-story (laundromat and Gold City Inn) building is bought and added (UC already owns one half). Such purchase and perhaps air-rights cantilever setback over United Church property as well as the 53rd retail space might be needed, for example, to include facade preservations.

Currently at least 15% must be "retail" by zoning, so modifications may well also be proposed to that also. And while the RFP cautiously warns that liquor licenses are ruled out, this is a matter of definition of measurement; the Committee asked that clarification be sought from city regulators.

Parking options and recommendations were considered but not acted upon, such as asking for not more than the zoned 1.2 spaces per unit (vs 1.5 the alderman has been putting in new residential developments). Some wanted the project to try to absorb some of the general parking deficit, but it was recognized that in any case access adjustments, or major changes such as punching Harper through will be necessary.

Members preferred the Design Criteria point 1 (Preference for facade preservation...) specify starting from least to most intrusive change. Members also thought the target timetable overly ambitious. (Despite the seeming weakness to some of the preservation preference in the draft guidelines, the final RFP language on p.12 is stronger.)

One dozen to three dozen or more proposals are expected to be submitted. The RFP addresses include about 40 preservation experienced area developers furnished by the National Trust.

February 7 was scheduled as the first official developer showing and walk-through of the site. March 21 was set as the deadline for submissions. About 33 developers, contractors, preservationists have toured the complex. The University has clarified that it will consider proposals that include even. the section of the building to the north, 5230 Harper, that it does not own, although naturally the developer will have to show it does or can control the entire property. (The University is not accepting any tenants for its half of the building.) LaunderKoin would add 6,000 sq ft to the University's 3800 sf and the 36,000 sf of the Herald-Theater building for a total of 45,800. Jo Reizner of University Realty told the Herald she is encouraged by the large number of responses to the RFP--none of which, incidentally, include the laundromat building. Priority continues for those proposals intending to preserve the Theater's facade.

At least 10 proposals were received, said by Susan Campbell of the U of C Community Affairs office to be serious and very interesting.


Contacts and Commenting

Who developed the Guidelines:

The Chicago Consultants Studio, Inc.
19 South La Salle Street, Suite 803
Chicago, IL, 60603

Phone: 312 357-0988. Email ccs@ccstudio.com Attn: Tim Brangle


Request for Proposals to redevelop properties at 53rd and Harper Avenues


Project Orientation (graphics, maps)

Project Framework:

RFP Development Objectives- Guidelines and parameters to ensure success

- Adaptive Reuse vs. New Construction
- Design Components
- Signature Quality Uses

RFP Design Criteria

With prime frontage along 53rd Street, the property is a key anchor parcel and signature development for the district as well as an important entry into the Harper Court area. The existing build[ings] serve as good precedent....for the massing, quality materials and architectural detail/character. Designs that propose a new development are encouraged to refer to this precedent with respect to the overall composition. The following are some general design criteria for the redevelopment of the property.

Program and Use Guidelines...a list of preferred program uses and components to help ensure that the Proposed Development becomes part of a vibrant neighborhood district...

Architectural Objectives

In conjunction with the design criteria, a number of architectural guidelines have been outlined to preserve the strong architectural character and quality of the Hyde Park community. whether applicable for adaptive reuse or new development, these objectives are as follows"

RFP process- Realizing the best possible project for Hyde Park

Selection criteria: The University will select a preferred developer based on the following:



Excerpts from the RFP of interest to the general community

Most of the RFP, except for portions that repeat or expand upon the above, is site-descriptive, technical or normal rfp material of interest mainly to developers and professionals and is confidential.

A few more general paragraphs clarify what the owner wishes to see in proposals, of a nature that affects the community.

SF 34,000 approx.

On preservation/reuse preference and landmark status

The theater section is designated "Orange" meaning that it "possesses architectural features or a historical association that makes it potentially significant in the context of the surrounding community. Developers are encouraged to investigate the adaptive reuse of t he building or incorporate the features of the building that make it a significant structure. Each proposal will have to take into account the historic status of the building and the requirements of redevelopment as outlined by the City of Chicago Landmarks Division.

"There is no historic designation for the retail/office building on 53rd Street." p 12

On development framework-design criteria

"With prime frontage along 53rd Street, the property is a key anchor parcel and signature development for the district as well as and important entry into the Harper Court area. The existing buildings serve as good precedent 53rd Street structures for the massing, quality materials and architectural detail/character. Designs that propose a new development are encouraged to refer to this precedent with respect to the overall composition..."

"Developers are encouraged to explore reuse and/or redevelopment options for the site that are responsive to the historic character and quality of construction in the surrounding community. The project should be innovative in response to programmatic needs and be of high quality with respect to all aspects of design including site plan, architecture, and interior and exterior finishes." pp. 12, 13

On program and use

High quality retail cites the opportunity to "secure a national retail anchor or signature store not currently in the area and possibly smaller local or specialty "home grown" retailers that offer unique, boutique shops or one-of stores." In short a "'destination' draw for the district." Pointed out also is opportunity for "quality 'chic' restaurants that appeal to a broader metropolitan market [or 24 hour non-fast food service]. Live or cinema theater use is still considered desirable.

Residential suggested consideration of nontraditional, UC related populations and styles such as "soft loft", stacked townhouse.

Materials are to be as in present area. Massing and scale and stratification are to match existing along streets. The Hyde Park Bank Building serves as the outside limit. pp. 13-14

Community Planning Process

"As part of the RFP Process, the University-selected developer will be required to give a public presentation(s) to the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council, its committees and working groups. The developer will present its proposed development concepts and designs to the community as part of the overall planning process.

MBWE proposal is firm, as is 15% affordable housing.

pp. 16-19.



Formal and informal comments on the RFP

(See also the Harper Theater page for more views on what should be done with the property.)

From the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference to the TIF Planning Committee and the Consultant (Tim Brangle at Chicago Consultants Studio), cc Hank Webber, Susan Campbell, Ald. Preckwinkle


Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference expresses its deep appreciation to the University of Chicago and its consultants for their work exploring future uses for the property at 53rd and Harper known as the Harper Theater and Herald Building and for preparing a Request for Proposal shared for comment with the community.

The Conference finds that the RFP purposes, objectives, design outline, process, and selection criteria express due diligence, detail and consideration for the needs and character of our neighborhood.

We have two suggestions for improvement:

1) Preservation of at least the façade of both the Theater and the Herald/retail building is a necessity and priority.
2) Rather than calling for a quick presentation of one proposal by a developer that the University will have already selected, we propose that an announced design competition be followed by a public view and comment period for the two or three most promising proposals.
The competitions or public viewings for the Harold Washington Public Library, the Joseph Regenstein Library west addition, and the Lake Shore Drive pedestrian overpasses greatly stimulated public ownership and involvement in those projects as well as thought about design for public and highly visible private spaces. Since the 53rd Harper RFP invites proposals that include a community center component useful to the neighborhood, University, and South Side, a means of public input would be a useful addition to the process that may well help gel the project into one that has the features, panache and quality to be expected of one of the most important recent developments in Hyde Park.

George W. Rumsey, President

From the Hyde Park Historical Society to the TIF Planning Committee and Consultant. As in Hyde Park Herald

Dear Mr. Brangle:

I am writing in response to your invitation to comment on the "Heart of Hyde Park: 53rd & Harper Property Redevelopment Briefing." This Society considers the Harper Theater building an important part of our community's history and we hope it will be a valuable part of our future as well. The University of Chicago's "Request for Proposal" is a step forward on the path to preserve this important building.

Our sense is that in view of the historic value of the building and its strong, positive effect on the streetscape, the 53rd Street retail/office portion of the building ought to be preserved, retaining the external structure with its original materials, roof line and scale. Internal rehabilitation to create viable, modern commercial space would not threaten its historic value.

We are aware that, despite great diligence, the university has been unable o find a suitable operator for the theater portion of the building and that adaptive reuse of theater buildings is especially difficult. Nonetheless, we strongly encourage the university and future developer to continue to explore these two options.

If the theater portion of the building cannot be maintained as a theater or an alternative use cannot be found, then certainly the facade must be preserved. Both portions of the Harper Theater building are important because of its distinguished architect (Horatio Wilson), its age (1913), its "Prairie School" design, and its elaborate terra cotta detailing.

The Chicago Historic Resources Survey rated the theater "ORANGE" because of these qualities.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation maintains a directory of preservation-minded developers from the Chicago area who have learned how to preserve historic buildings and make money. We've introduced the trust and the university to one another and we understand that the RFP will be distributed to this list of preservation-oriented developers.

We appreciate both the historic importance of this building and the hard work that has already been devoted to bringing it with us into the future. Thank you for the opportunity for community members to contribute to this important project.

Carol Bradford, President


More about the Music Box Theater bid (rejected) and a community view. About the Baum bid

The Herald on July 26 reported that William Schopf, the owner of the Music Box recently reiterated that he wants to restore the theaters for first-run art and foreign films as well as keep the businesses on 53rd Street. Schopf said he did hear from the University about his bid in June. Hank Webber told the Herald he expects a decision on the successful developer in time for the September 11 TIF meeting.

Schopf has owned the Music Box at 3733 N. Southport for nearly 20 years. He told the Herald he is ready at any time to restore the building. "The design and operating teams and the money are all in place. we can move as quickly as the city permit process will allow to begin construction," estimating restoration itself would take a year.

Initially, the theater would have three screens, with the fourth a possibility, especially for live acts. The exterior would be restored with a new marquee and large vertical neon sign at the 53rd St. side. He wants more of the 53rd businesses to be open til 10 pm. Films would not be those offered by DOC Films, DOC generally having second-hand and thematic in series. the new theater would show first-run but not mainstream movies.

Schopf knows he is taking a risk and is unlikely to make a profit, although the real estate investment could grow. His Program Director Brian Andreotti told the Herald that the keys to survival are location and programming.

Schopf told the Herald he thinks the University trustees are an impressive group capable of making a good decision and that "Communities are as good as the people who care about them and are willing to work on their behalf. Hyde Park is lucky to have Ms. Haley."

Hans Morsbach writes Herald that parties should bend over backwards to accommodate the Music Box. August 9.

I am very excited to hear that the Music Box is considering moving to Hyde Park. I think this is a wonderful possibility as it is a sympathetic theatre that philosophically fits well into Hyde Park.

The fact that the theatre would be interested in maintaining parts of the adjoining 53rd street building is also positive as the store front facade on 53rd Street is architecturally attractive and I would be upset if it were replaced by a boring, new structure.

I realize that the University of Chicago has been trying to preserve the character of Hyde Park and attract exciting new tenants. Unfortunately, the results are not impressive, no matter how intense the effort.

I hope that the university has enough moxie to make the Music Box an offer they cannot refuse. It is an opportunity that would significantly alter the ambiance of Hyde Park and should be taken advantage of. It would constitute the most exciting commercial development opportunity in years and should not be passed up.

And Pamela Haley says "Hyde Park needs a theater." Herald, Aug. 16, 2006

Dear Mr. Webber:

The news that the Music Box Theatre is seriously, and formally interested in opening a movie theatre in the Harper move theatre location has thrilled many Hyde Parkers. Not only are the owners prepared to bring wonderful movies to our parched neighborhood, they will also take responsibility for restoring the theater itself.

I can't think of andy other commercial development which would be so embraced by most, if not all, Hyde Parkers.

Other businesses would surely benefit from the presence of a first class theater. I do hope that the university plans on taking into account the very strong wishes of the community and offers the Music Box Theatre owners an attractive deal.

In order to help the university understand how many of us believe this would have a transformative effect on the community we plan to circulate petitions urging the university to grasp this rare opportunity.

Second letter, end of October: A movie theater will enrich Hyde Park's cultural life.

Dear Mr. Webber:

I want to thank you for your responsiveness to the Hyde Park Herald's queries about the options for the Hyde Park movie theater space. It is helpful to know that the university trustees will make the final decision.

However, I am sure they rely upon your research and evaluation of how best the university may contribute to the larger community as well as to its own students, faculty, an staff. You are quoted as saying "private entities rarely inform the public about who makes offers to purchase their property or rent their space."

We are not asking for the financial details of all the proposals as much as the goals you are pursuing and how each proposal meets those goals.

The university is not an ordinary "private entity" which operates independently of the larger community except for market dynamics. This larger community consists of residents, many of whom are alumni, other institutions and businesses.

It is hard to imagine any segment of the university or larger community that would not be enriched by the excellent Music Box Theater. We are all--the University of Chicago and Hyde Park--in desperate need of a more vibrant cultural life.

If indeed it is more appropriate to address these concerns to the trustees themselves, I would be glad to do so. I do not quite share your conviction that the university has, as you say, "Gone well beyond standard practice in getting our community involved in the plans for the reuse of the theater building."

I look forward to a meaningful exchange of ideas before the decision is made.

Pamela Haley, Ad-hoc committee to promote the reopening of the Harper Theater


Corrine and Rob Borja second Haley, saying that corner deserves some good news.



Speculation on the bid by Baum Realty, which finds spaces for class restaurants

Hyde Park Herald August 9 discussed the Baum Realty bid for the theater. Baum, of River West, specializes in locating and leasing prime retail and restaurant venues, including Morton's and Pompeii Bakery. Noted was that Arne Morton's empire started in Hyde Park, first on Lake Park at 55th, then after the area was cleared for urban renewal, as part of a motel that stood at the present site of Montgomery Place, 56th and South Shore. (This writer remembers it fondly for treating the customer with class at less than break the bank prices--popular for dates or a group of students on Sunday.)

Three observations: 1) It is not clear that a liquor license could be had at any part of the complex (unless the former Gold City Inn spot were included) because of proximity to the United Church of Hyde Park. 2) Since restaurants like Morton's generally like sites of about 8,000 square feet, there would be plenty of room for other things as well in the 18,000 square foot site. Baum's website does list Hyde Park as a "desired location" for a Morton's, they are opening a new restaurant on the north side this year.

Costs, parking prevent theater from reopening. Herald, Oct. 11 2006. By Nykeya Woods

Community emotions run high when discussions of opening he shuttered Harper Theater, 5238 S. Harper Ave., begin. But the reality is that its location, without visible parking, its size and the economics of reopening it do not support the community's desire for another movie theater.

After an exhaustive search the University of Chicago, which purchased the building in 2002 for $2.274 million, is still entertaining the notion of opening a theater. U. of C. Vice President of Community and Government Affairs Hank Webber said that over the summer the university was taking seriously a proposal from the Music Box Theater that had been submitted in the spring. The company, he said, produced an attractive offer to rehab the theater and keep open the storefronts on 53rd Street. Webber said there is also a lot of community support for a theater, as shown by a recent petition and letters to the Herald.

But past experience is weighing against reopening a theater. The University had solicited rehab plans from more than 30 movie theater operators. None of them worked, officials said, because most asked for a hefty subsidy from the university. Even the Downers Grove-based Tivoli company, which has restored several older movie theaters, could not reach an agreement with the University. In 1999, owners of the Tivoli wanted to purchase and open the four-screen Harper Theater for first-run films. Talks fizzled in 2005 when the Tivoli company, which has restored several older movie houses, realized that opening the Harper was not feasible.

"It got to a situation where the physical building was going to be constrained by the footprint. So we would have a hard time fitting the theater in there without getting the additional space." said Tivoli Theater Vice President Chris Johnson. In order for the theater to be successful, Johnson said there would need to be space for eight screens and room for a concession stand. He said the size of the lobby is one of the theaters' biggest disadvantages.

"It wasn't really a cohesive layout. So reconfiguring the facility and being able to do so and comply with the latest ADA would be very difficult," he said. Johnson said he talked with the university about acquiring the adjoining property and expanding. The problem Johnson encountered was that the university owns property two doors down Harper Avenue but not adjacent to the theater building. The next problem was building a parking garage for 350 spaces close to the theater, Johnson said. There needs to be one parking space for five customers, he said.

The building and its interior also need extensive repair and renovation. "Typically even when you have an existing shell, a rough number is about $1 million per screen," Johnson said. In 2002, renovation cost estimates for the 1,200-seat theater building and its attachments were approximately $10 million. The theater alone was estimated to cost $5.2 million. Since then, there have been increases in costs for labor and materials, said urban planning consultant Irene Sherr. "The theater now has deteriorated even further. They felt it was in terrible shape then and basically you had to rebuild the theater behind keeping the facade," said Sherr.

Sherr has been working with the university to attract movie vendors, including Tivoli, to the space... "What brought [the Tivoli] to our attention was the way they had turned around the Lake Theater in Oak Park," Sherr said.


Counterpoint by Pamela Haley, Ad Hoc Committee in Support of the Music Box Theatre. Herald, October 25, 2006. Theater assumptions must be questioned.

An article in last week's Herald (10/11/06) was headlined "costs, parking prevent theatre from reopening." Such a statement is either an editorial opinion, which should have been identified as such an editorial, or a University of Chicago judgment channeled through a news article.

The reasons for this judgment, presumably the university's, are identified. The major assumptions from which this conclusion is drawn seems to be about the scale of things. The university quotes one theater businessman as saying, "In order to be successful, there needs to be space for eight screens and room for a concession stand and a parking garage for 350 spaces close to the theater, one space for every five customers."

If such assumptions are not questioned, then of course a structure resembling a suburban megatheatre and garage would logically follow. How about the idea of walking to the movies, stopping for a drink or supper, or shopping along the way, and generally making for livelier and safer streets? Or if moviegoers come from other communities and want to drive, surely a parking garage could be built on one of several existing parking lots nearby.

Other reasons, such as theater owners expecting a subsidy from the university, are not clear, e.g. does this mean an initial offering price was less than the university wanted and that no further negotiations were considered?

Why not rethink all these assumptions about what contributes to a thriving community?