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Background: Tracking Community Trends. 2008 HPKCC Retrospective

2008 Big Stories in Hyde Park-Kenwood, Chicago IL

This is a page of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference's website, However, it was submitted by Gary Ossewaarde and reflects/expresses only the views of its author.

1. Obama-mania. Hyde Parker and Senator Barack Obama is elected President of the United States of America--
and Hyde Park goes under the national microscope. Sections near Obama's home remain sealed off. The question now is whether there will be an Obama effect of increased development and decreased affordability, and whether we will get the Olympics, improved transportation/access, schools, etc. Locals, while enthusiastic (many traveled to campaign), held their breath and exulted after the election. Valois Cafeteria gave free breakfasts the morning after and for days bucksters sold goods and lines stretched around the block to buy newspapers. Walgreens cleaned up as "Obama headquarters." Top

2. In other politics, Will Burns prevailed in 4-way race in 26th House District, new 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell over Rep. Ken Dunkin in 3rd Ward Committeeman race, and call for a state constitutional convention failed. Top

3. Development planning, real estate volatility. Detail pages- see Development Pages Index, Harper Court home, Harper Theater RFP, 53rd Street, TIF News home, Zoning home.
While Hyde Park suffered only modestly from burst of the housing bubble and the economy; retail and mixed development was at least stalled by the same.

This was the year the University took the lead role in pushing and planning such development as well as major campus expansion. Some wondered whether the University was capable of thoughtful planning, in partnership with the community, and asked why we do not do more area-wide planning. The University's purchase of (and takeover of the RFP process for) Harper Court was the decisive move. Some neighbors were distressed to see the plan to rehab the Theater buildings go down the drain and to clear buildings or land including Harper Court well before new plans could be ready. Surveys, planning charettes, and meetings/forums by a coalition of organizations including HPKCC, neighborhood entities and Ald. Preckwinkle helped forge a set of principles for development of Harper Court and beyond. There was concern about public input into actual developer proposals, effective transparency, and a result that will serve the needs of broad and diverse sets of residents and business owners, including small locally-based and independent business, and still be a destination.

The University badly stumbled in efforts to convince neighbors at big and private meetings, or modify the proposal for Doctors Hospital on Stony Island, or ultimately in preventing neighbors from voting the precinct dry, apparently killing the development. The University also stirred up controversy by acquiring considerable property to the west of Washington Park in the path of the Olympics. Much of that controversy was over communications.

Antheus Capital continued to purchase and start rehab of many mostly rental buildings, some very large (with some ability of local affordability groups to negotiate concessions), advanced plans for the large, green Solstice on the Park at 56th and Cornell, and proposed a major mixed development to replace the current Village Center at Lake Park and Hyde Park Blvd. (Indeed, increasing attention to remaking the Lake Park corridor was a marker of 2008.) The other large mixed development proposal, changed from condo to rental, was that of L3 for 53rd and Cornell. L3's other site, 53rd Kenwood, remained dormant.

Increasing attention was given on larger community planning, starting with 53rd Street. The keystone was a set of Vision exercises and walk throughs with large participation. Meanwhile, the 53rd Street TIF increased its support actions by supporting these, continuing streetscape, funding CleanSlate and small business improvement projects and upgrades at Canter Middle School. New TIFs and Special Assessment districts got off the ground on Cottage Grove. Residential spot zoning and build-out pressures became worrysome. Top

4. Olympics. Several meetings and task forces were convened on possible Olympics impacts, which several experts said would be minimal here. Popular focus was on whether affordable housing and ability to stay in one's home would be affected and on improvements in being able to get around such as Metra "Gold Line" that could help businesses also. The largest meeting in Hyde Park on the matter was that of Coalition for Equitable Community Development. Several were also held on campus on general development and affordability as well as on Olympics. A Fifth Ward Task Force tackled a large range of issues from business licensing and preparation to effects on parks, transit and getting around, security, improvements, and historic recognition.

Chicago won the U.S. bid and now competes with 3 cities abroad. Feeling was that Chicago will win. There was considerable frustration the 2016 was slow to do the real, intense study and planning, and really consult with communities, think tanks, elected officials, and the city. As time to submit the final bid approached, proposals were modified in Jackson Park in response to concerns; a major aquatics center (one component to be a permanent legacy) was added in Washington Park, and 31st St. harbor was abandoned for events. Caution was given by experts that effects can often be negative, especially for low income people and neighborhoods. Many sought transit upgrades. Several task forces were formed, but none large in Hyde Park. Washington Park support groups looked for improvements and facilities in the park and neighborhood, including job training and affordable housing (a ballot initiative passed in 20 precincts.) The Communities for an Equitable Olympics (CEO) umbrella and one of its constituents Southsiders Organiz[ed] for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) shed light on possible negative effects (including displacement), including those identified by think tanks. Top

5. Retail expands. (For overall see Business Climate.) Despite progressive emptying of Harper Court, continued vacancy of the Theater buildings and cleared 53rd Cornell (and earlier McDonalds) vacancies gradually filled in 2008 to the point where, as businesses moved from Harper Theater and Court, it became hard to find spaces for remaining to-be-moved tenants.

University-owned Hyde Park Shopping Center at 55th and Lake Park became completely filled for the first time in several years and its courtyard remained lively with special events and foot traffic. New occupants include DJ's Bike Repair, Home Made Pizza, U.S. Post Office (from the basement), and What the Traveler Saw.

The largest vacancies that opened up were video stores on 53rd. The largest ongoing true vacancy on the edge of the neighborhood is the former 2nd Co-op store at 47th and Lake Park (1300).

The largest turnover was the replacement of Co-Op Markets with Treasure Island Foods (page deals with the whole rapidly expanding grocery scene), 1526 E. 55th St. after a bitter battle mostly in 2007. (Hyde Park Cooperative Society was entering final bankruptcy in late 2008.) Treasure Island undertook in late 2008 a complete remodeling of the store as a model for its other six. It has expanded specialty and organic inventory but kept many of the former vendors and its delivery service. Hyde Park Produce in Kimbark Plaza (actually opened in 2007 and continuing to be highly popular), Zaleski and Horvath (1126 E. 47th Street), Open Produce (1635 E. 55th St.) , 61st and Bronzeville farmers' markets, and others added to variety and competition in the area. There was concern about the impact of loss of Village Foods should a new Village Center at Lake Park and Hyde Park Blvd. go forward.

Zaleski and Horvath is probably the most specialized and engaged in stressing both energy-intensive rare, high-quality world specialty foods and the new trend toward localized and organic/green. Emphasized are organic artisan cheeses, meats and breads, refined produce, and highest-quality, hard to find ingredients plus salads, deli sandwiches and specialty beverages (with special one-cup machines to brew)-- exhibiting another trend, to combine food, coffeehouse, and take out staples and prepared foods in a personalized small one-stop. 61st Market, part of the innovative Experimental Station, seeks to grow the local and Midwest "natural" suppliers, fill a food desert, and bring communities together.

Open Produce store at 1635 E. 55th, owned by a Hyde Park University [alum] trio, went further in the direction of total transparency, local area natural, with providing specialty foods for Chinese, Mexican, and Jewish residents. it also stays open later that most businesses in its area.

The restaurant scene continued to be lively. See Restaurants and Entertainment for complete list and information about the restaurant scene.
Park 52, 5201 S. Harper, was the most spectacular new entry, being a key desire of the University to bring in a destination signature high-end restaurant that would "hold" Harper Court area during redevelopment. It would join Petite Folie but be larger, club-like, and trendier/homier. It is hoped it will do well-- it has hired a new chef and adjusted its menu.

Shinju Sushi at 1357 E. 53rd St. has both to go and sit down for authentic Japanese specialties, boxes and teas.

The Sit Down, 1312 E. 53rd St. serves fine sushi and other Japanese specialties, pasta and pizza, and specialty sandwiches in a modern airy atmosphere and may add music.

Chant, 1509 E. 53rd is fusion Asian and a popular bar, with frequent live jazz and other music.

Also new: Fifth/Third Bank, 1420 E. 53rd Street was the latest of many bank additions and fills an anchor vacancy (former OSCO) in Dorchester Commons. The Detroit-based construction company worked with the Urban League and Kellogg School for jobs and training. Questions were raised about the survival of the Washington Mutual branch in the 1300 block of E. 53rd St. after the parent company crashed and was acquired by Chase, which has a branch nearby.

Smith and Smith Smile Studio. Two unrelated dentists with the same name bought out the practice of Dr. Marilyn Palm-Dorsey at 1457 E. Hyde Park Blvd. Top

Moved or closed: Art's Cycle was evicted, but one of the employees took over and ran a shop temporarily from the location at 1652 E. 53rd St. St. until it opened as DJ's Bike Doctor in the part of the Cohn and Stern space at 1500 E. 55th Hyde Park Shopping Center next to Toys Et Cetera (2007, from Harper Court)

Hyde Park Producemoved into much larger space in Kimbark Plaza (all filled). HPP has sponsored benefits at and for Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

Kilamanjaro arts and apparel shop moved from University-emptied Harper Theater shops to 1305 E. 53rd. Other shops that left moved within the neighborhood--US Computech, Noodles Etc. (became Chant, plus maintained venue at 57th and Kenwood), Hyde Park Hair Salon, What the Traveler Saw, and more. Two stores there located outside Hyde Park.

Leaving or about to leave Harper Court are Baby Ph D, Maravillas' Mexican Restaurant, Dr. Wax (across the street) ... the remaining stores were to be gone by 2009 or have their leases bought out-- Calypso, Dixie Kitchen, Dr. Wake Veterinary [Hyde Park Animal Clinic], Sen. Raoul, Harper Ct. Arts Council (to the Bank Bldg.), Chamber of Commerce (to 5501 S. Everett), Plants Alive, C'est Si Bon...

Jimmy John's came in but three Quiznos closed. Yet Starbucks left alone all local outlets despite having to close nationally 70% of all stores opened in the past three years (that were siphoning off a quarter of business from existing outlets).
Blockbusters closed.

Blockbusters closed.

Valois Cafeteria and Hyde Park Hair Salon got world attention from the national campaign and election of Barack Obama.

At the Children's Book Fair, Rebecca Janowitz passed torch to Angela Sherrill. The Hyde Park Used Book Sale did very well under Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and the Garden Fair sales did extremely well. Top

6. Schools and Education. See Schools home.Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, was chosen for Education Secretary by President-Elect Barack Obama. Duncan is a life-long Hyde Parker, active in both public and private education. The response was enthusiastic, although with reservations about the policies of CPS toward support or closings of schools, especially in low-income neighborhoods and hostility toward Local School Councils and other forms of local input or control.

Concern was expressed about local schools lagging in repairs and upkeep. The 53rd TIF joined with CPS in funding major repairs to Canter Middle School, although the needed expansion is still not in sight. Kenwood Academy received a very extensive Disabilities upgrade. Award-winning Ray School remained uncertain as to when repairs will be made. CPS is sending teams around to all the schools.

UC Laboratory Schools launched major planning and fundraising for the schools and their expansion, nursery to high.

Kenwood Academy lunch privileges now depend on performance, about 350 of 1700 can go off campus. Kenwood appears to be turning around and the strong parts maintaining position or improving.

Akiba-Schechter dedicated a new playground sponsored by Bill Coleman and Carol Groover and by Jewish Funders.

Gregory Mason succeeded Michael Keno as Principal at Murray Language Academy.

An ongoing concern for schools and their supporters is continued devolution of responsibilities upon them by CPS to raise funds for everything from supplies, to after school programs, to training, to repairs.

Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Schools Committee put on line a comprehensive listing of after school and related activity providers. The Committee also held banquets with speakers for outgoing and incoming local school councils and their principals. Among information furnished was that on grant writing and finding funds and donations and how to improve further as LSCs. Top

7. Services and other institutions. The pulse got weaker? Visit reports on our "Co-laborers" in the Community.
Hyde Park Neighborhood Club
underwent substantial reorganization under interim director Jennifer Bosch. Much was cut back, including seniors programs. Programs are being restored or added, especially for teens and pre and school kids, partly under new grants, with intergenerational focus. Physical activity is combined with tutoring and a wide range of cultural activities and skill-building. But the financial viability remains iffy. An intriguing way out for the Club and many other service and program providers is possible sharing of the facility.

The Blue Gargoyle strengthened its organization and fundraising/marketing. Gargoyle seeks to give people a tool kit to get what they want out of life, and jobs, and create (in several neighborhoods and citywide) readers, thinkers and leaders, according to new Director Pamela Bozeman-Evans. It serves 1300 a year. Assistance is needed.

To many the inability of the Hyde Park Cooperative Society to retain its store, or find other things it could do or fund, was a major loss.

Harper Court Arts Council, which received $6 million from the University of Chicago from sale of Harper Court did at least partialy expand its board, broadened its mission, and start to give significant grants to arts and development groups.

Needing a new fiscal agent is the Community Art Fair (first weekend in June at 57th and Kenwood, adjacent to 57th Street Art Fair). Presently under Harper Court Art Council, possible sponsors for next year are being sought.

Continuing to grow although challenged was
Centers for New Horizons. CNH raised c. $35,000 at a December 19 concert at Union Church featuring Willie Pickens, Branford Marsalis and Dee Alexander. The Experimental Station, Hyde Park Art Center, and Little Black Pearl continued to expand their enterprises and outreach and the later two their role in the schools, although need for schools to extensively fundraise to have them and other programs is a worry. Top

Several organizations moved to new homes in faith institutions or elsewhere.

A major addition was the Coalition for Equitable Community Development, which held forums and negotiated affordable housing components in several developments and publicized and negotiated on the Metra Gold Line proposal and Olympic impacts and affordable housing components. CECD came out of the work of several organizations, including HPKCC.

The Older Women’s League (OWL) continued to research, disseminate information on, an collaborate on issues of importance to our aging and other populations.

8. Parks.
Our parks continued to serve despite drastic budget cuts, challenges to advisory councils through updated guidelines, competing demands by user groups, and calls for new activities or diversion for "non traditional" (or even non-parks) uses--including the proposed Olympics. The guideline proposals were softened but some issues remain unclear or troublesome to councils. Also troublesome was a proposal at the end of the year to eliminate from the Park District bylaws all reference to or means of ensuring equitable distribution of resources and facilities.

Kenwood Park. A controversy over an expansion of a baseball field for older youth, thought unsafe by many and executed without consultation of the council and any but one constituency led to an uproar including alleged political interference and perhaps decertification of the council (this was [these were] never clear). In order to get things back on track, Alderman Preckwinkle convened an open Kenwood Park Usage Committee, chaired by George Rumsey, President of HPKCC. After several months of study, research, and discussion, a unanimously signed compromise set of recommendations on the original and other park issues and needs was reached. This was submitted after the Kenwood Council was reconvened and reorganized and an all-parties slate of officers elected. Troubling questions about outside interference and convening community committees remained to be pondered. It would be seen whether all parties will work together and the park district will make the needed physical changes and repairs.

Jackson Park. Athletes Committed to Education proposed a sports training facility "bubble" for a tennis court area. While it has much support (though not yet Park District approval), members of the advisory council worry about its sustainability, status as a private entity and partially sequestered use, with its own program and staff not under the park district, and aesthetics and other effects on a historic Olmsted park. The Museum of Science and Industry has proposed reorganization and "green solutions" for the southwest lot and property. The council gave MSI a letter supporting the objectives. At the end of the year, the Olympics bid committee moved the hockey venue from the soccer-lagoons area, about which the council had expressed concern, to an as-yet-incompletely defined locale near Hyde Park Academy. A boulder and plaque honoring the role of Frederick Douglass at the Columbian Exposition was approved and funded for installation in 2009 at the site of the Haitian pavilion. The council is adjusting to, and considering new bylaws as a result of, new council guidelines.

Washington Park. The advisory council and neighborhood continued to ponder Olympic impacts as the bid committee added a large new aquatics center to the stadium proposal. Each would leave a year-round legacy facility-- a warm up pool and an arena for some combination of sports and cultural events. Washington Park received a new playground. A new conservancy has joined the council in addressing facilities and grounds.

For Promontory Point, this year's concern remained allowance to swim. Top

9. Public Safety. (See Safety latest.) The University continued to ratchet up its safety and policing program. Many forums off and on campus were held (some of these pointed out continued problems with police such as evidence of profiling). Storefront smashings, burglaries and robberies continued, although violent crimes continue to drop to historic levels despite a few spikes. Crimes by women appeared to be on the increase. Top

10. University of Chicago. (See University and Community and subpages.)
In 2008, the University decisively expanded its role in communities, from 53rd-Harper Court area to surveying students and faculty on what they wanted on many fronts including retail, to the hotel proposal on Stony Island, inclination to be more involved in Woodlawn (including helping seminaries to move there), buying property in Washington Park, and overall expansion of its facilities inside and outside its planned development footprint. Ann Marie Lipinski became VP for Civic Engagement. Looming were demographic changes in neighborhoods from construction of new, closer dormitories and changes in student aid. In the process, the University received unprecedented gifts, developed strategic plans, and pondered effects of the economic meltdown. There were labor disputes and controversies from takeover and naming of a seminary for an economics institute to divestment from Darfur. The University stepped up its programs in sustainability (including neighborhood outreach) and ADA upgrades. Buildings that were under construction or planning included for biomedics and hospitals, library expansion, Searle Chemistry, Laboratory Schools, Friedman economics institute, several buildings in South Campus including for the Law School, parking, dorms, a chiller plant, and planning for the arts center and Harris School. Planning is starting on a new physics and computation center. The Quadrangle Club is under renovation and reorganization and a new garden has gone in on the Midway. Several projects will affect traffic and parking. The University redoubled its programs in local schools, for South Side healthcare (while closing or reducing access to its local clinics), and public safety. A major question is how much the University intends to proceed basically on its own, with or without local support. Top