HPKCC Development, Preservation and Zoning

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Brought to you by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development Committee, and its website hydepark.org, with assistance from the Preservation Committee of the Hyde Park Historical Society (Jack Spicer, Chairman).
Chairman and writer Gary Ossewaarde, hpkcc@aol.com

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We sometimes shorten our name, but not our interest, to "Development Committee". Our purpose is to monitor, impact, and sponsor community conversation on potential for and impacts of, development in our neighborhood through: forums, surveys, position papers, and above all collaboration with the many organizations, groups, officials, agencies, businesses and residents who have a stake in change, well being and quality of life in Hyde Park and Kenwood. And we engage with many outside our community as well. We strongly support appropriate and balanced development in accord with principles and objectives residents have asked for, and above all support community input.

Those with whom our collaboration is most active are: 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council and its committees, Coalition for Equitable Community Development, Hyde Park Disabilities Task Force, Hyde Park Historical Society and its Preservation Committee, Interfaith Open Communities, Older Women's League of Hyde Park and Illinois, Southside Solidarity Network. Visit also the TIF-based vision53.org. A new group for which we are fiscal agent is Southside Preservation Action Fund.

To find the work of our committee (and loads of links), start with the Development Hot pages linked at the top, Development Navigator/HOME. Then visit Development Detail and sub pages, 53rd Street News home, Harper Court/53rd and Lake Park redevelopment home, and TIF News home. Other sets of pages can be found from History and Preservation home and Zoning and Development home or in the Site Index page. Here:

The DPZ Committee recent achievements and approach. From the July 2009 Conference Reporter, Vol 15. No 3.

Development Committee takes positions and leads in a more collaborative approach by the Conference

By Gary Ossewaarde

The Conference Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee (DPZ) has focused on three kinds of actions this year. The first and largest focus is the redevelopment of Harper Court. We added our voice to those insisting first that the Request for Proposals take into account diverse needs and ideas from the community, broad planning principles, and to the extent possible the original purpose of room and affordability for smaller and startup businesses, and second that the process be kept open--including that the semi-finalists present to the community (expected to start at the September 14 TIF meeting). But we have expressed our concern about the haste to vacate Harper Court including of very viable businesses and to tear down the space years before development is likely.

Second, we were asked to consider a localized zoning change and appeal for a specific building, the Del Prado. Our preference is that before there is a rash of ad hoc zoning and other changes in the neighborhood, the community step back and take a wider view, similar to the Vision 53 process and the work of the 53rd TIF committees and also looking at broader questions such as pros and cons of density and upscaling. But this has not yet happened, and owners and developers, particularly MAC Properties, understandably continue to ask changes. The process overseen by our aldermen has been open and fair. The particular matter the DPZ committee was asked to support, replacement of a rooftop addition to the Del Prado that once housed the famed House of Eng restaurant, was given us with a short time frame. Based on a site visit and careful deliberation, the committee concluded that the change would help revitalize a neighborhood asset and wrote a letter of support.

Third, this year the Development Committee and some of our other committees are applying new approaches that move beyond HPKCC’s own monitoring, and as appropriate taking positions on, proposed changes. We seek to nudge the conversation towards more pro-active and broad-focused community planning and accomplishment. This coincides with two messages from the Conference’s February forum on Hyde Park’s future: We need ways to foresee and get ahead of new curves, and our organizations, institutions and officials have to work together.

Our committees have started to form study subgroups with counterparts from other organizations. One, from members of the Parks committee also active in DPZ, meets with members of the Hyde Park Historical Society board and a few others. This group is looking at the future of Washington Park in light of Olympic planning, legacy and impact, other pressures, and the need for sustained upkeep, preservation and improvements in the park. Similar study groups are starting or anticipated on sections of the neighborhood or particular topics.

Another approach is informal collaborations. For example, a team from the Conference’s Transit Task Force and from the Older Women’s League Hyde Park met with a University of Chicago administrator on topics that interlock and affect each other in a way that impacts the neighborhood’s quality, future and possibilities—such as sustainability, alternative transit/mobility, and safety. Persons who are board or committee members in another organization also work together to share insights, gain heft, or avoid each reinventing the wheel. Sharing of information on each others’ initiatives, including for example “guest appearances” at HPKCC board meetings, is a growing reality, and we will work for more.

A third is coalitions: support and cooperation with stand-alones with particular mandates. One is the Coalition for Equitable Community Development, which works for ways to maintain a community in which people of many income levels are welcome and can age in place. Still another is the Hyde Park Disabilities Task Force. Recently, the Conference joined a new umbrella coalition, the Hyde Park Alliance for Arts and Culture. See the Schools Committee report for a vision for another kind of collaborative effort.

The Conference also looks for small organizations that are a fit for its mission to become fiscal affiliate committees. A recent addition is the Southside Preservation Action Fund, which provides rapid small grants for documentation, study, and emergency stabilization. SPAF has funded a study of architect Walter Gropius’ role in the Michael Reese complex, slated for redevelopment and is also funding, with the HPKCC Development Committee and other organizations, a condition assessment of the Harper Theater buildings.

Watch for forums and other initiatives in the fall.


The Development Committee, formed about late 2005, has been one of the most active as well as largest Conference committee.

We support community-wide and larger mid-South planning (including modernized zoning) and transparent, non-interested conduct by officials and monitors for planning and development. The committee has hosted a large number of forums on development and related topics-- Future of 53rd Street, What's Right and What's Wrong with Hyde Park, Harper Court/53rd-Lake Park (several including survey), and co-sponsored visioning workshops especially for the business district. It contributed to model RFP for the Theater building. It's Harper Court forums developed sets of principles and sparked community idea-sharing and a survey for Harper Court redevelopment. It has sought right behavior on the part of developers including owners of Harper Court and its successors.

One of our challenges in this time of accelerated change is to engage the parties, including the University, whose actions will affect the quality and character of the neighborhoods for decades. A major item we watch includes acceleration of trends re development inside Hyde Park and in surrounding communities (including possible increased retail competition) and on affordability and build-out pressures. We have also expanded our interest outside the neighborhood through fiscal agency and affiliations.

Affordability, ability to live affordably in the neighborhood, and economic diversity are important to us.

We have weighed in for key appropriate requests for zoning changes to allow restoration and adaptive reuse of major aging assets.

We work with our Access and Transit Task Force to make sure getting around, development, and neighborhood character all work together.