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53rd Street Vision Workshop Part II: Bringing Hyde Park's Downtown to Life. May 3, 2008

This page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development Committee, and its website Official reports on this workshop will appear on line. Final report of the December 8 2007 Workshop I is found in

On May 3, 2008 108 assembled at Kenwood Academy, 5015 S. Blackstone, Chicago to consider goals for 53rd Street, Hyde Park, Illinois, part of the 53rd Street Commercial Tax Increment Financing District. The workshop was the second of 4 planned for the corridor (the first being December 8 2007, attended by nearly 200. The workshops will continue November 15, 2008 with a block exercise developed by the Corridor Housing Initiative of Minneapolis.

Formal Reports will be posted in www. and pictures taken by the teams are up in or at

The workshops are convened by Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th) of Chicago, the 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council to Ald. Preckwinkle, City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development, CMAP Metropolitan Planning Agency, Coalition for Equitable Community Development, Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce, Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, Interfaith Open Communities, South East Chicago Commission, and The University of Chicago.

The following notes are by Gary Ossewaarde and are completely unofficial.

Personal observations:

By Gary Ossewaarde:

General thoughts: Those remarking thought it much more interesting than the December one, with more opportunities to give your views and rub up against what is really there, despite the cold of the walk. Admirable were efforts to include broader demographics including high school and college students, younger people, and African Americans (although the audience was still largely white).

Personal observation about the pictures-- how can anyone interpret what the mean-- is this something the taker likes, does not like, or sees as an opportunity? I am told there are ways this is being handled in the

General remarks from the walkers: "I didn't realize 53rd was getting to be so run down!" Biggest problem as reported by teams at the plenary session: Discontinuity, broken up, no consistency, the newer, short structures look the worst and aren't pulling their weight.

Another problem is that brought forward by Tod Cabanban, as quoted in Hyde Park Herald (full article below): "53rd Street, in terms of rent, is up there with other premier shopping districts," Cabanban said, citing an estimate of $40 in rent per square foot at the Harper theater development at 53d Street and Harper avenue. "That's expensive, that's really high," he said. "You're only going to be able to capture the high volume retailers."

The context is now much wider. Since the workshop the University bought Harper Court (and will lead the process with Chicago Consultants Studio, the timetable is running on Harper Ct. RFP starting with comment period on guidelines with RFP for winter 2008-09), and indicated it is considering a wider footprint incl. via purchases adjacent to Harper Court and elsewhere along 53rd, is considering an institutional presence via student housing and back-office, and that the Harper Theater project is stalled.

Noted after or since the meeting: Some are uncomfortable with the models for redevelopment held up for redevelopment of Harper Court and 53rd Street: Delmar at Washington University in St. Louis, redevelopment at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lake Street at the Oak Park/River Forest Illinois transit interchange (some saying the redevelopment to the east of the latter is more in line and scale.)

Want to share yours?


Agenda and Presenters/topic team leaders

9:00 am- Welcome, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle

9:05 am- Overview- Erin Alderman and Stephen Ostrander of CMAP: How did we get here? Agenda overview

9:15 am- Introduction of guest experts and their take on What is the most important issue in creating a vital neighborhood center? What is the biggest challenge?

10 am- choose a tour:

Main Street/Global Village with Tod Cabanban of Zifkin Realty & Dev. and Barry Schain, Next Realty

Land Use, Density/Zoning with G. Benjamin Ranney of Terra firma and Joanne Trotter of Metropolitan Planning Council

Accessibility, Walkability, Connectivity with Mary DeBacker of Parsons Brinckerhoff and Chicagoland Bicycle Federation and Kiersten Grove, Chicago Department of Transportation Pedestrian Planning Coordinator

Urban Design, Aesthetics, and Neighborhood Character with Andre Brumfeld, Dir. Urban design and Planning with EDAW Chicago and Eleanor Gorski, Asst. Commissioner, Landmarks Div., Chicago Dept. Planning and Development.

10:30 am- Tour 53rd with cameras

11:15 am- Return to Kenwood for team discussion and questions, top 3 observations

11:30 am- Plenary presentations of each group's top 3 observations

11:50 am- Preview of November 15 workshop, Corridor Housing Initiative block exercise


Presenters takes on what is the most important issue in creating a vital neighborhood center? What is the biggest challenge?

(Individual names are not given here.)

It must provide unique experience(s).
Must persuade nationals to think outside the box.

Clear goals in line with economic, physical and other realities
Enabling retailers to make the most of the site taking into account how they operate. (Recognize that development and growth are organic and slow - few will be pioneers but will go where there is already action.)

The center needs to be a whole and consistent, continuous corridor.
Opening up to the whole mid South market- including existing businesses making more distant deliveries

Providing density, class A space, making tie-ins and key investments

Seek a mix of affordable and diverse land uses. Hyde Park has the passageway bones but needs to accommodate all modes- car, bike, pedestrian, transit.

Vibrant street life

Diversity of users for all the income levels
Creating a unified, continuous corridor including east of the Metra

Retaining old uses and buildings, welcoming the new


Groups' conclusions (top 3 observations from walks) as presented to the plenary session

(Cameras were turned in; those who used their own were to email pics.)

Main Street/Global Village:

Continuity is needed

Accessibility in all modes is needed and some redirections of traffic et al

A balance of quality retail


Needs physical work

No parking in front of stores

More bike racks

Share facilities among modes, such as striping bike or ped paths in streets

Need themes and guidelines for canopies, facades, signs


Need more mixed use options

Street frontages need to be open

No consistency on heights

The one-story modern structures are not attractive and not pulling their weight.


The corridor is disrupted and broken up, especially by surface parking lots.

Hyde Park distinctiveness is a graceful simplicity in architecture, which should be followed in commercial buildings.

The pocket parks are problematic and need a further look.


Coverage of the May 3 2008 Vision Workshop II

Hyde Parkers explore 53rd Street. Herald, May 14, 2008. By Sam Cholke. Emphasis added.

Looking to focus discussions on future development, about 150 Hyde Park residents met at Kenwood Academy Saturdays morning [May 3 2008] to explore options for 53rd Street.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, in conjunction with Community Counsel and the 4th Ward Alderman's office opened the workshop with a panel including representatives of the developer community, the city of Chicago and urban planners.

Participants broke into groups to focus on four areas of interest: Main Street/Global Village, Land Use and Density, Accessibility and Connectivity and Urban Design and Aesthetics.

At the Main Street break out session, group leaders Barry Schain of Next Realty and Todd Cabanban of Zifkin Realty and development focused on the concerns of developers when they consider starting projects in Hyde Park, including current rental rates for retail space.

"53rd Street, in terms of rent, is up there with other premier shopping districts," Cabanban said, citing an estimate of $40 in rent per square foot at the Harper Theater development at 53d Street and Harper avenue. "That's expensive, that's really high," he said. "You're only going to be able to capture the high volume retailers."

Cabanban said that rental rates vary along the 53rd Street corridor and much more than rent prices are considered in a project.

The 53rd Street Tax Increment Finance (TIF) District is a big incentive for developers to relocate in the area, and access to the expectations of the TIF and community through the TIF advisory council make the draw stronger, Cabanban said.

"Retailers like involved communities, they like to know what the rules are," Schain said.

Schain said one of the best ways community members can court local businesses to the neighborhood is to show them there is an undeserved market. When you go out of the neighborhood to shop, tell the store owner about all the people you know from the neighborhood who shoo there and how you would like to see them open in Hyde Park, Schain said. "There is a certain herd mentality to retailer," Schain said. They are not likely to "pioneer" i a neighborhood where they have no relationship with the customer base.

If the community wants to attract national chains, people should fix their efforts on chains that already have stores in Chicago, Schain said.

On the group's walk down 53rd Street, many commented on how the viaduct felt unsafe and created a disconnect the businesses on the other side. "The easiest way to make the viaducts seem safe is to put a restaurant there," Schain said. "The hardest part is getting a retailer who's willing to put in the money to work it out."

The Main street group told the whole group that building a sense of continuity was their main concern.

The Urban Design group echoed these concerns in terms of building aesthetics. The group was not opposed to to new construction as long as it paid some deference to existing architectural styles on the street. The several small parks on 53rd Street should be included when talking about development, said group leader Aaron Cooke, a planner with Romero Cook Design Studios.

The Land Use group disagreed about building heights, but the many large, one-story buildings on 53rd street should not continue to dominate the street, the group agreed.

The Accessibility Group found 53rd Street "generally walkable," but could be friendlier to bicyclists by including more bike racks, group spokesman Roger Huff said.

Irene Sherr, and organizer for the workshop, said she thought the event went well and achieved its goals of focusing peoples' attention on real things they can do to improve 53rd Street. ....


Amenities crop up as retail discussions continue, New restaurants and diversified grocery options signal retails's creep into Hyde Park. Chicago Maroon, May 13 2008. By Mimi Yang

The 53rd Street Vision Workshop, a panel dissussion attended by University administrators, local politicians, and neighborhood residents, met earlier this month to discuss plans for sustaining a retail community along Hyde Park's main commercial avenue.

The workshop attracted a large number of community members and leaders, including Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, University representatives from the newly formed Committee on Retail, and Susan Campbell, associated vice president of community affairs.

Participants expressed optimism for the future of Hyde Park and largely embraced what Andre Brumfield, from the design firm EDAW Chicago, called a "diversity of uses" for retail areas.

However, some local experts cautioned future developers. Barry Schain, a broker, stressed that although 53rd Street is a "genuine, unique site," it is extremely tough to work with the churches, parks, [and] pre-existing structures."

Representatives of the U of C fielded questions from community members who perceived ulterior motives in the University's development efforts. Associate Vice President Campbell reiterated that the University has a large stake in the future of the Hyde Park and is dedicated to working with the community in developing Hyde Park sites. "The University of Chicago is a participant with al the other community stakeholders in the process," Campbell said in a subsequent interview.

According to Campbell, the University has been particularly interested in bringing a high-end restaurant to fill the space beside the Checker Board Lounge in Harper Court. Recently, the University played an instrumental role in bringing Park 52, an upscale American bistro owned by prominent Chicago restaurateur Jerry Kleiner, to the neighborhood. Campbell said that the U of C is also currently developing its own retail property in the neighborhood. The University-owned strip of retail spaces that flank the Harper Theater at the corner of 53rd street and South Harper Avenue is currently unoccupied and and awaiting dev elopement. While the University had original[ly] proposed bringing in a mix of specialty boutiques and restaurants to that location, it has since encountered numerous challenges in the planning process.

Campbell also rejected the notion that the University's goals for development of the neighborhood conflicted with those of the general community. "The University's interests are not different from what the community wants," she said. "We're both interested in seeing a vibrant, sustainable neighborhood."

On walking tour of the street following the panel, community members repeatedly stressed that they were interested in finding venues that made for the best fit with the neighborhood. Although many people expressed a desire to see more "mon-and-pop" type, locally owned business, they stated that ultimately they most wanted retailers that agreed with Hyde Park's atmosphere.

Gene Krell, who has live in Hyde Park since 1954, recognized that the neighborhood's diversity can make it difficult for a business to meet every one's requirements and desires. As an example, Krell noted that by his estimation, 13 or so national retailers considered a space at the Hyde Park Shopping Center before Office depot was convinced to lease the space.

Another participant pointed out that the site at East 53rd Street and South Blackstone Avenue, now occupied by th fast-food chain Boston Market, formerly housed Pier 1, a decor and home furnishing store, which found itself unable to sustain its business in Hyde Park and closed after several years.

The University hopes that after a series of similar community events, in conjunction with a more thorough understanding of student and staff retail preferences, headway can be made in redevelopment. On campus, the University recently established a committee on retail, made up of several undergraduate and graduate students as well as a number of administrators, in an attempt to engage student voices in the development process.

Second-year and member of the committee Hallie Trauger stressed in an e-mail interview that the committee sought to reconcile those opinions and needs with the larger conversation about Hyde Park development. "These needs will then need to be put in dialogue with broader conceptions of community identity and priorities better determined in surveys, town halls, and off-campus conversations that in administrative committee rooms," she wrote. Trauger emphasized that she thought it would be m ore productive to think of the community as including students, rather than in opposition to student needs, and that ultimately she believed that the committee's recommendations "will simply be our best attempt to report broad and diverse student desires and propose some practical opportunities, suggestions, and cautions."

Campbell said that the committed would present a report containing its findings to Student Government in early June. "We're a large corporate entity in the neighborhood," CAmpbell said "The goal on our side is to be able to co-exist peacefully. After"53rd Street, in terms of rent, is up there with other premier shopping districts," Cabanban said, citing an estimate of $40 in rent per square foot at the Harper theater development at 53d street and Harper avenue. "That's expensive, that's really high," he said. "You're only going to be able to capture the high volume retailers." all, we're all working on the same goals."